Mechanism of Modulation of T Cell Responses by N-palmitoylated Peptides
European Journal of Immunology
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Small structural changes in the antigenic peptides recognized by TCR can alter the biological properties of those peptides and convert them into weak agonists, partial agonists, or antagonists of these receptors. These altered peptide ligands (APL) are usually generated by conservative amino acid substitutions at TCR contact residues. Here, we show that APL with therapeutic properties can also be generated by attachment of palmitic acid at the N terminus of the peptide without the need to modify the peptide's primary sequence. Using N-palmitoylated pigeon cytochrome-c peptide 81-104 (PALPCC(81-104)), we were able to induce T cell hyporesponsiveness to the wild-type peptide in vitro. More importantly, administration of the PALPCC(81-104 )to mice reduced the responsiveness to the native peptide when tested ex vivo. Biochemical and functional experiments indicated that the action of N-palmitoylated peptides was due to the conversion of the native peptide into a weak agonist that could then induce T cell anergy. Our results demonstrate that N-palmitoylation of antigenic peptides is a feasible strategy to generate APL, as it avoids the need to screen multiple amino acid variants of each specific antigen to identify those with therapeutic properties.