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HLA-I molecules play a central role in antigen presentation. They typically bind 9- to 12-mer peptides, and their canonical binding mode involves anchor residues at the second and last positions of their ligands. To investigate potential noncanonical binding modes, we collected in-depth and accurate HLA peptidomics datasets covering 54 HLA-I alleles and developed algorithms to analyze these data. Our results reveal frequent (442 unique peptides) and statistically significant C-terminal extensions for at least eight alleles, including the common HLA-A03:01, HLA-A31:01, and HLA-A68:01. High resolution crystal structure of HLA-A68:01 with such a ligand uncovers structural changes taking place to accommodate C-terminal extensions and helps unraveling sequence and structural properties predictive of the presence of these extensions. Scanning viral proteomes with the C-terminal extension motifs identifies many putative epitopes and we demonstrate direct recognition by human CD8+ T cells of a 10-mer epitope from cytomegalovirus predicted to follow the C-terminal extension binding mode.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





5083 - 5088


HLA peptidomics, HLA-I structures, HLA-I–peptide interactions, T cell epitope, computational immunology