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The assembly assay for peptide binding to class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is based on the ability to stabilise MHC class I molecules from mutant cell lines by the addition of suitable peptides. Such cell lines lack a functional transporter associated with antigen presentation (TAP) and as a result accumulate empty, unstable class I molecules in the ER. These dissociate rapidly in cell lysates unless they are stabilised by the addition of an appropriate binding peptide during lysis. The extent of stabilisation of class I molecules is directly related to the binding affinity of the added peptide. However, some MHC class I molecules, including HLA-B * 2705 and H-2Kk are unusually stable in their peptide-receptive state making them inappropriate for analysis using this assay or assays which depend on the ability of peptides to stabilise MHC class I molecules at the cell surface. Here we present an improved method that permits reliable measurements of peptide binding to such class I MHC molecules that are unusually stable in the absence of peptide. Cells are lysed in the presence of peptide and incubated at 4 degrees C. After 2 h, during which peptide binding to empty MHC molecules occurs, the lysate is heated to a temperature which preferentially destabilises those MHC molecules that remain empty. We have used this technique to assay peptide binding to HLA-B * 2705, as well as to the murine allele H-2Kk which also displays a stable phenotype when transfected into TAP-deficient T2 cells and show that this method represents a marked improvement over previous methods in terms of lower background signal and higher recovery of peptide bound molecules.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of immunological methods

Publication Date





25 - 36


The Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


Cell Line, Humans, Oligopeptides, H-2 Antigens, HLA-B Antigens, Epitopes, Amino Acid Sequence, Protein Binding, Phenotype