Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950) 2017 08 07199(6) 2030-2042 doi 10.4049/jimmunol.1602183
Alternative splicing occurs frequently in many genes, especially those involved in immunity. Unfortunately, the functions of many alternatively spliced molecules from immunologically relevant genes remain unknown. Classical HLA-I molecules are expressed on almost all nucleated cells and play a pivotal role in both innate and adaptive immunity. Although splice variants of HLA-I genes have been reported, the details of their functions have not been reported. In the current study, we determined the characteristics, expression, and function of a novel splice variant of HLA-A11 named HLA-A11svE4 HLA-A11svE4 is located on the cell surface without β2-microglobulin (β2m). Additionally, HLA-A11svE4 forms homodimers as well as heterodimers with HLA-A open conformers, instead of combining with β2m. Moreover, HLA-A11svE4 inhibits the activation of NK cells to protect target cells. Compared with β2m and HLA-A11, the heterodimer of HLA-A11svE4 and HLA-A11 protected target cells from lysis by NK cells more effectively. Furthermore, HLA-AsvE4 expression was upregulated by HIV-1 in vivo and by HSV, CMV, and hepatitis B virus in vitro. In addition, our findings indicated that HLA-A11svE4 molecules were functional in activating CD8(+) T cells through Ag presentation. Taken together, these results suggested that HLA-A11svE4 can homodimerize and form a novel heterodimeric complex with HLA-A11 open conformers. Furthermore, the data are consistent with HLA-A11svE4 playing a role in the immune escape of HIV-1.