Structural Modeling and Molecular Dynamics of the Immune Checkpoint Molecule HLA-G

T. Arns, D. A. Antunes, J. R. Abella, M. M. Rigo, L. E. Kavraki, S. Giuliatti, and E. A. Donadi, “Structural Modeling and Molecular Dynamics of the Immune Checkpoint Molecule HLA-G,” Frontiers in Immunology, vol. 11, p. 2882, 2020.


HLA-G is considered to be an immune checkpoint molecule, a function that is closely linked to the structure and dynamics of the different HLA-G isoforms. Unfortunately, little is known about the structure and dynamics of these isoforms. For instance, there are only seven crystal structures of HLA-G molecules, being all related to a single isoform, and in some cases lacking important residues associated to the interaction with leukocyte receptors. In addition, they lack information on the dynamics of both membrane-bound HLA-G forms, and soluble forms. We took advantage of in silico strategies to disclose the dynamic behavior of selected HLA-G forms, including the membrane-bound HLA-G1 molecule, soluble HLA-G1 dimer, and HLA-G5 isoform. Both the membrane-bound HLA-G1 molecule and the soluble HLA-G1 dimer were quite stable. Residues involved in the interaction with ILT2 and ILT4 receptors (α3 domain) were very close to the lipid bilayer in the complete HLA-G1 molecule, which might limit accessibility. On the other hand, these residues can be completely exposed in the soluble HLA-G1 dimer, due to the free rotation of the disulfide bridge (Cys42/Cys42). In fact, we speculate that this free rotation of each protomer (i.e., the chains composing the dimer) could enable alternative binding modes for ILT2/ILT4 receptors, which in turn could be associated with greater affinity of the soluble HLA-G1 dimer. Structural analysis of the HLA-G5 isoform demonstrated higher stability for the complex containing the peptide and coupled β2-microglobulin, while structures lacking such domains were significantly unstable. This study reports for the first time structural conformations for the HLA-G5 isoform and the dynamic behavior of HLA-G1 molecules under simulated biological conditions. All modeled structures were made available through GitHub (, enabling their use as templates for modeling other alleles and isoforms, as well as for other computational analyses to investigate key molecular interactions.


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