The development of inhibitory anti-FVIII antibodies is a major clinical problem in hemophilia A. While less common in mild/moderately severe patients, the relative risk of inhibitor formation is elevated in patients with missense mutations in the FVIII A2 domain, especially those with an R593C genotype. In this study, T-cell responses to 14 FVIII A2 domain peptides with predicted DRB1*1101 MHC binding motifs were investigated using MHC class II tetramer reagents. CD4+ T cells were isolated from a hemophilic subject (DRB1*1101, 1302) with FVIII missense genotype R593C and stimulated with pooled peptides. This subject had developed a longstanding low titer inhibitor after receiving multiple FVIII infusions. Staining with fluorescent, peptide-loaded tetramers revealed that the hemophilic subject, but not an HLA-matched healthy control, had a DRB1*1101-restricted response to peptide A2589–608, which contained the wild-type R593 sequence. MHC class II tetramers with bound A2589–608 were used to sort antigen-specific T cells and then generate a T-cell clone recognizing this high avidity DRB1*1101-restricted epitope. FVIII residues 594–602 (FLPNPAGVQ) comprise a predicted high-affinity binding motif. Peptide binding assays confirmed that A2589–608 bound to recombinant, monomeric DRB1*1101 protein with high affinity. A peptide with the corresponding hemophilic sequence (A2589–608, 593C) bound with affinity that was threefold lower, but in a range that should be sufficient for presentation to T cells. The other 12 A2 peptides had a wide spectrum of binding affinities for the DRB1*1101 protein. Interestingly, prediction algorithms suggest that the peptides containing residue 593 occupy the MHC Class II peptide-binding groove in a register that places this residue just outside the p1 anchor position. Thus we anticipate that residue 593 modulates T-cell recognition of peptide A2589–608. This provides a potential explanation for inhibitor development in mild hemophilia A patients with a FVIII R593C genotype who are HLA-DRB1*1101. Immunogenicity of this FVIII region with respect to other HLA types is under investigation.

Author notes

Disclosure:Research Funding: Research grant from CSL Behring, Inc. (2007–2009); Research grant: Bayer Hemophilia Award (2007–2009).