Genetics of HLA Peptide Presentation and Impact on Outcomes in HLA-Matched Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research Immunobiology Working Committee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Minor histocompatibility antigens (mHAs), recipient-derived peptide epitopes presented on the cell surface, are known to mediate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD); however, there are no current methods to associate mHA features with GVHD risk. This deficiency is due in part to the lack of technological means to accurately predict, let alone confirm, the tremendous number of potential mHAs in each individual transplant. Previous studies have shown that different HLA molecules present varying fractions of candidate peptide epitopes; however, the genetic “distance” between HLA-matched donors and recipients is relatively constrained. From these 2 observations, it is possible that the HLA type for a donor-recipient pair (DRP) would provide a surrogate measurement of the number of predicted mHAs, which could be related to GVHD risk. Because different HLA molecules present variable numbers of peptide antigens, a predicted cumulative peptide-binding efficiency can be calculated for individual DRP based on the pair's HLA type. The purpose of this study was to test whether cumulative peptide-binding efficiency is associated with the risk of acute GVHD (aGVHD) or relapse. In this retrospective Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research study, a total of 3242 HLA-matched DRPs were analyzed for predicted cumulative peptide-binding efficiency using their HLA types and were divided into tertiles based on their scores. Univariable and multivariable analyses was performed to test for associations between cumulative peptide-binding efficiency for DRPs, divided into the HLA-matched related donor (MRD) and HLA-matched unrelated donor (MUD) cohorts, and the primary outcomes of aGVHD and relapse. Secondary outcomes investigated included overall survival, disease-free survival, and transplantation-related mortality. Using a computationally generated peptidome as a test dataset, the tested series of HLA class I displayed peptide-binding frequencies ranging from 0.1% to 3.8% of the full peptidome, and HLA class II molecules had peptide-binding frequencies of 12% to 77% across the HLA-DRB1 allotypes. By increasing binding efficiency tertile, the cumulative incidence of aGVHD at 6 months for MUD patients was 41%, 41%, and 45% for HLA class I (P =. 336) and 44%, 41%, and 42% for HLA class II (P =. 452). The cumulative incidences of relapse at 3 years for MUD transplant recipients were 36%, 38%, and 38% for HLA class I (P =. 533) and 37%, 37%, and 38% for HLA class II (P =. 896). The findings were similar for MRD transplant recipients. Multivariable analysis did not identify any impact of peptide-binding efficiency on aGVHD or relapse in MUD or MRD transplant recipients. Whereas GVHD is mediated by minor antigen mismatches in the context of HLA-matched allo-HCT, peptide-binding efficiency, which was used as a surrogate measurement for predicted number of binding antigens, did not provide additional clinical information for GVHD risk assessment. The negative result may be due to the limitations of this surrogate marker, or it is possible that GVHD is driven by a subset of immunogenic mHAs. Further research should be directed at direct mHA epitope and immunogenicity prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-599
Number of pages9
JournalTransplantation and Cellular Therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • HLA
  • Minor histocompatibility antigen
  • Peptide epitope binding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation


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