HLA-DM (DM) edits major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII)-bound peptides in endocytic compartments and stabilizes empty MHCII molecules. Crystal structures of DM have revealed similarity to MHCII but not how DM and MHCII interact. We used mutagenesis to map a MHCII-interacting surface on DM. Mutations on this surface impair DM action on HLA-DR and -DP in cells and DM-dependent peptide loading in vitro. The orientation of DM and MHCII predicted by these studies guided design of soluble DM and DR molecules fused to leucine zippers via their beta chains, resulting in stable DM/DR complexes. Peptide release from the complexes was fast and only weakly sequence dependent, arguing that DM diminishes the selectivity of the MHCII groove. Analysis of soluble DM action on soluble DR/peptide complexes corroborates this conclusion.
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