Surface Expression of HLA-E, an Inhibitor of Natural Killer Cells, Enhanced by Human Cytomegalovirus gpUL40

Science  11 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5455, pp. 1031-1033
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5455.1031

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The nonclassical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecule HLA-E inhibits natural killer (NK) cell–mediated lysis by interacting with CD94/NKG2A receptors. Surface expression of HLA-E depends on binding of conserved peptides derived from MHC class I molecules. The same peptide is present in the leader sequence of the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) glycoprotein UL40 (gpUL40). It is shown that, independently of the transporter associated with antigen processing, gpUL40 can up-regulate expression of HLA-E, which protects targets from NK cell lysis. While classical MHC class I molecules are down-regulated, HLA-E is up-regulated by HCMV. Induction of HLA-E surface expression by gpUL40 may represent an escape route for HCMV.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: vbraud{at}

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