Sequence analysis of the mutant Dbm13, Dbm14, and Dbm24 genes indicate that they differ from the parental Db gene by 4, 1, and 8 nucleotides, respectively. The mutant sequences substituted into Dbm13 and Dbm24 are identical to those found in the Kb gene, at the homologous positions. Thus, similar to the Kb gene, the Db gene is able to undergo micro-recombination (gene conversion) events with other class I genes. Such data suggest that micro-recombination events could be an important mechanism for the diversification of all H-2 genes. The Db mutant products share a common theme: the alterations in all occur at amino acid residues whose side chains in the homologous class I HLA-A2 molecule project into the postulated peptide antigen-binding cleft, and hence, would be expected to alter the binding of foreign or self peptides. Due to such changes, the bm14 mouse has become a nonresponder in the CTL response to Moloney murine leukemia virus (M-MuLV), as the alteration of one amino acid residue at position 70 (a Gln to His) is sufficient to entirely abrogate the cell-mediated response to the virus. On the other hand, the bm13 mouse has shifted the major part of its M-MuLV restriction to Kb, a profound alteration in CTL responsiveness due to the alteration of three amino acids (Leu to Gln at 114, Phe to Tyr at 116, and Glu to Asp at 119) in a peptide stretch of beta-pleated sheet structure lining the bottom of the antigen-binding cleft. Thus, study of these mutants reveals that, in one step, micro-recombination at the genetic level has resulted at the protein level in profound changes in the immune response to viral infection. Such a mechanism operating at the population level can be a driving force during evolution for modulating the character of CTL immunity.

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