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Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) in Adaptive Immune Response

Written/Edited by Dr. Stefan Pellenz PhD

The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) comprises a number of genes that occur in many species. The encoded proteins help the immune system to tell the body's own proteins apart from those of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoans. In humans, MHC proteins are encoded by the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA), a group of more than 200 genes located closely together on the short arm of chromosome 6. Class I HLAs present peptides from inside the cell whereas class II HLAs present antigens from outside of the cell to T-lymphocytes. A third cluster of HLAs (class III HLAs), situated between class I and class II HLAs, encodes components of the complement system and is not involved in the adaptive immune response.

Classical class I and class II Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) are leading candidates for infectious disease susceptibility. Many observations point to a major role for classical HLA loci in determining susceptibility to viral infections1. A recent study shows that individuals with the allele HLA-B*46:01 have the fewest predicted binding peptides for SARS-CoV-2, suggesting they may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, as they were previously shown to be for SARS. A different allele, HLA-B*15:03, showed the greatest capacity to present highly conserved SARS-CoV-2 peptides that are shared among common human coronaviruses, suggesting it could enable cross-protective T-cell based immunity. 2 These observations point towards a potential influence of different HLA composition - the haplotype - in the present SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Association of various HLA haplotypes with SARS-CoV-2 infection and the course of COVID-19 could improve assessment of viral severity in the population. Thus, it could allow strategizing prevention, treatment, vaccination, and optimizing clinical approaches3.

Browse our portfolio of HLA antibodies down below! Some antibodies are able to recognize several HLA molecues; for example the MHC Class II antibody based on clone IVA12 recognizes the shared epitopes of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) class II molecules HLA-DP, HLA-DQ and HLA-DR heterodimeric cell surface glycoproteins comprised of an α (heavy) chain and a β (light) chain.


  1. Blackwell, Jamieson, Burgner: "HLA and infectious diseases." in: Clinical microbiology reviews, Vol. 22, Issue 2, pp. 370-85, Table of Contents, (2009) (PubMed).
  2. Nguyen, David, Maden, Wood, Weeder, Nellore, Thompson: "Human Leukocyte Antigen Susceptibility Map for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2." in: Journal of virology, Vol. 94, Issue 13, (2020) (PubMed).
  3. Shi, Wang, Shao, Huang, Gan, Huang, Bucci, Piacentini, Ippolito, Melino: "COVID-19 infection: the perspectives on immune responses." in: Cell death and differentiation, Vol. 27, Issue 5, pp. 1451-1454, (2020) (PubMed).

HLA Class I Genes

HLA Class II Genes 

HLA-DQB2 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DQ beta 2):

HLA-DOB (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DO beta):

HLA-DRB3 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DR beta 3):

HLA-DRB4 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DR beta 4):

HLA-DQA1 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DQ alpha 1):

HLA-DPA1 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DP alpha 1):

HLA-DPB1 (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DP beta 1):

HLA-DMB (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class II, DM beta):

HLA Class I / II Pseudogenes 

HLA-H (Major Histocompatibility Complex, Class I, H (Pseudogene)):

Other Genes within the MHC 

TAP1 (Transporter 1, ATP-Binding Cassette, Sub-Family B (MDR/TAP)):

TAP2 (Transporter 2, ATP-Binding Cassette, Sub-Family B (MDR/TAP)):

RFX1 (Regulatory Factor X, 1 (Influences HLA Class II Expression)):

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