The partial dissociation of MHC class I-bound peptides exposes their N terminus to trimming by endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1.
Papakyriakou A., Reeves E., Beton M., Mikolajek H., Douglas L., Cooper G., Elliott T., Werner JM., James E.
Endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 (ERAP1) and ERAP2 process N-terminally extended antigenic precursors for optimal loading onto major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) molecules. We and others have demonstrated that ERAP1 processes peptides bound to MHC I, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. To this end, we utilized single-chain trimers (SCT) of the ovalbumin-derived epitope SIINFEKL (SL8) tethered to the H2-Kb MHC I determinant from mouse and introduced three substitutions, E63A, K66A, and W167A, at the A-pocket of the peptide-binding groove in the MHC I heavy chain, which interact with the N termini of peptides. These variants significantly decreased SL8-presenting SCT at the cell surface in the presence of ERAP1, but did not affect overall SCT expression, indicating that ERAP1 trims the SL8 N terminus. Comparison of the X-ray crystal structures of WT and three variant SCTs revealed only minor perturbations of the peptide-binding domain in the variants. However, molecular dynamics simulations suggested that SL8 can dissociate partially within a sub-microsecond timescale, exposing its N terminus to the solvent. We also found that the C terminus of MHC I-bound SL8 remains deeply buried in the F-pocket of MHC I. Furthermore, free-energy calculations revealed that the three SCT variants exhibit lower free-energy barriers of N terminus dissociation than the WT Kb Taken together, our results are consistent with a previously observed model in which the partial dissociation of bound peptides from MHC I exposes their N terminus to trimming by ERAP1, whereas their C terminus is anchored at the F-pocket.