Direct allorecognition, the ability of host T cells to recognize intact allogeneic MHC molecules on transplanted tissues, is often assumed to be less dependent on the peptide bound to the MHC molecule than are other antigen recognition pathways. In this issue of the JCI, Son et al. provide unequivocal, in vivo evidence that direct allorecognition depends on the self-peptides bound to the non-self MHC molecule. The authors demonstrate that the induction of allospecific tolerance required the presentation of self-peptides by the non-self MHC molecule, and that only a handful of these peptides accounted for a sizeable proportion of the immunogenicity of the MHC antigen. These are important findings for transplant immunologists because they provide molecular insights into the biology of direct allorecognition, the prime driver of the alloimmune response to MHC-mismatched grafts, and much-needed tools, peptide–MHC multimers, to track and study polyclonal alloreactive T cells.
Hossam A. Abdelsamed, Fadi G. Lakkis