Structural analysis by two-dimensional peptide maps (2D-PM) of the human Ia molecular pool expressed on the cell surface of two distinct lymphoblastoid cell line, LG-2 and Raji, revealed the existence of a novel MHC class II molecular heterodimer that differs at the level of both alpha and beta subunits from the previously described DP, DQ, and DR antigens. These differences were also seen at the level of two-dimensional electrophoresis (2D-PAGE) of biosynthetically labeled intact molecules, although to a lesser extent, due to the intrinsic limitations of this technique in resolving fine structural differences. We have designated this new class II antigen as the fourth Ia subset. The fourth Ia subset seems to represent a small proportion of the human Ia pool. Comparative analysis by 2D-PM of the two cell lines showed the presence of structural variations in the alpha chains of the fourth Ia subset, suggesting the existence of polymorphism for these subunits. Cell surface iodination did not show appreciable labeling of the fourth subset beta chain in LG-2 cells, and this prevented analysis of the structural polymorphism of this subunit. Furthermore, for the first time, we have shown that DP alpha chains display distinct peptide maps in LG-2 and Raji cells, thus suggesting the presence of structural polymorphism for these Ia subunits also. The DQ1 alpha and beta allelic products present in LG-2 cells (DQ homozygous) did not show appreciable structural variation when compared with the homologous allelic products present in Raji cells (DQ heterozygous). Finally, we have confirmed the absence of polymorphism for the DR alpha subunits. By 2D-PM, relatively low structural variation was instead found for the highly polymorphic DR beta subunits expressed in the two cell lines, suggesting that cell surface iodination preferentially labels constant domains of DR beta chains.

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