The T cell receptor (TCR) recognizes a ligand composed of a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule and a peptide antigen. Prior studies of murine T cell clones have demonstrated that residues in the CDR3 region of TCR interact with amino acids in the peptide during MHC-restricted antigen recognition. However, the questions of whether direct TCR MHC contacts are made and where such contact sites might map in the TCR have not been resolved. In this study, we have taken advantage of the promiscuous recognition of a peptide from influenza virus (HA 307-319) by human T cell clones to map sites in the TCR that mediate differences in human leukocyte antigen-D related (HLA-DR) restriction in the presence of a common peptide antigen. Site-specific mutagenesis of cloned TCR genes and transfection into Jurkat cells were used to demonstrate that single amino acid substitutions in CDR2 of the TCR-alpha chain controlled whether a T cell was restricted by the product of a single DR allele (DR7) or would respond to the HA 307-319 peptide when presented by the products of one of several different DR alleles (DR1, DR4, DR5, or DR7). Because the relevant DR alleles are defined by polymorphism in the DR-beta chain, these results also suggest a rotational orientation for recognition in which TCR-alpha interacts with DR beta.

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