Minor histocompatibility antigens (mHags) play crucial roles in the induction of graft versus host disease (GVHD) and/or graft versus leukaemia (GVL) effects following human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-identical haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Using HLA-A*3101- and -A*3303-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones generated from different post-HSCT recipients, we identified two novel mHag epitopes encoded by the leader sequence of cathepsin H (CTSH) isoform a. The nonameric sequence ATLPLLCAR was defined as an HLA-A*3101-restricted epitope (CTSH R/A31), while a decameric peptide featuring a one N-terminal amino acid extension, WATLPLLCAR, was presented by HLA-A*3303 (CTSH R/A33). The immunogenicity of both epitopes was totally dependent on the polymorphic C-terminal arginine residue and substitution with glycine completely abolished binding to the corresponding HLA molecules. Thus, the immunogenicity of this mHag is exerted by differential HLA binding capacity. CTSH is relatively ubiquitously expressed at protein levels, thus it may be involved in GVHD and anti-leukaemic/ tumour responses. Interestingly, however, CTL clones predominantly lysed targets of haematopoietic cell origin, which could not be explained in terms of the immunoproteasome system. Although the mechanisms involved in the differential susceptibility remain to be determined, these data suggest that CTSH-encoded mHags could be targets for GVL effects.
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