Purpose of review: The immunogenic capacity of donor human leukocyte antigen (HLA) to induce humoral immune responses is not an intrinsic property of the mismatched alloantigen but depends on the HLA phenotype of the recipient. In recent years, advances in molecular sequence technology and information from X-ray crystallography have enabled structural comparison of donor and recipient HLA type providing an opportunity for a more rational approach for determining HLA compatibility. In this article, we review studies investigating the molecular basis of antibody–antigen interactions and present computational approaches to determine the complex physiochemical and structural properties of B-cell epitopes.
Recent findings: The relative immunogenicity of individual HLA mismatches may be predicted from analysis of polymorphic amino acids at continuous and discontinuous HLA sequence positions. The use of alloantigen sequence information alone, however, provides limited insight into key determinants of B-cell epitope immunogenicity, such as the orientation, accessibility and physiochemical properties of amino acid side chains. Advances in computational molecular modelling techniques now enable assessment of HLA-alloantibody interactions at the atomic level. Recent evidence supports a strong link between HLA B-cell epitope surface electrostatic potential and their immunogenicity.
Summary: Assessment of the surface electrostatic properties of HLA alloantigens and computational analyses of HLA-alloantibody interactions represent a promising area for future research into the molecular basis of HLA immunogenicity and antigenicity.