Studies in vitro have suggested that a species barrier exists in functional interaction between human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II and mouse CD4 molecules. However, whether mouse CD4+ T cells restricted by HLA class II molecules are generated in HLA class II transgenic mice and respond to peptide antigens across this barrier has remained unclear. In an analysis of T cell responses to synthetic peptides in mice transgenic for HLA-DR51 and -DQ6, we found that DR51 and DQ6 transgenic mice acquired significant T cell response to influenza hemagglutinin-derived peptide 307-319 (HA 307) and Streptococcus pyogenes M12 protein-derived peptide 347-397 (M6C2), respectively. Inhibition studies with several monoclonal antibodies showed that transgenic HLA class II molecules presented these peptides to mouse CD4+ T cells. Furthermore, T cell lines specific for HA 307 or M6C2 obtained from the transgenic mice could respond to the peptide in the context of relevant HLA class II molecules expressed on mouse L cell transfectants that lack the expression of mouse MHC class II. These findings indicate that interaction between HLA class II and mouse CD4 molecules is sufficient for provoking peptide-specific HLA class II-restricted T cell responses in HLA class II transgenic mice.

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