HLA Heterozygote Advantage against HIV-1 Is Driven by Quantitative and Qualitative Differences in HLA Allele-Specific Peptide Presentation

Pathogen-mediated balancing selection is regarded as a key driver of host immunogenetic diversity. A hallmark for balancing selection in humans is the heterozygote advantage at genes of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), resulting in improved HIV-1 control. However, the actual mechanism of the observed heterozygote advantage is still elusive. HLA heterozygotes may present a broader array of antigenic viral peptides to immune cells, possibly resulting in a more efficient cytotoxic T-cell response. Alternatively, heterozygosity may simply increase the chance to carry the most protective HLA alleles, as individual HLA alleles are known to differ substantially in their association with HIV-1 control. Here, we used data from 6,311 HIV-1-infected individuals to explore the relative contribution of quantitative and qualitative aspects of peptide presentation in HLA heterozygote advantage against HIV. Screening the entire HIV-1 proteome, we observed that heterozygous individuals exhibited a broader array of HIV-1 peptides presented by their HLA class I alleles. In addition, viral load was negatively correlated with the breadth of the HIV-1 peptide repertoire bound by an individuals HLA variants, particularly at HLA-B. This suggests that heterozygote advantage at HLA-B is at least in part mediated by quantitative peptide presentation. We also observed higher HIV-1 sequence diversity among HLA-B heterozygous individuals, suggesting stronger evolutionary pressure from HLA heterozygosity. However, HLA heterozygotes were also more likely to carry certain HLA alleles, including the highly protective HLA-B*57:01 variant, indicating that HLA heterozygote advantage ultimately results from a combination of quantitative and qualitative effects in antigen presentation.

Published in:
Molecular Biology And Evolution, 37, 3, 639-650
Mar 01 2020

 Record created 2020-04-17, last modified 2020-04-17

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