Melissa J Nicholson

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (5)65.99 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: DM catalyzes the exchange of peptides bound to Class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Because the dissociation and association components of the overall reaction are difficult to separate, a detailed mechanism of DM catalysis has long resisted elucidation. UV irradiation of DR molecules loaded with a photocleavable peptide (caged Class II MHC molecules) enabled synchronous and verifiable evacuation of the peptide-binding groove and tracking of early binding events in real time by fluorescence polarization. Empty DR molecules generated by photocleavage rapidly bound peptide but quickly resolved into species with substantially slower binding kinetics. DM formed a complex with empty DR molecules that bound peptide with even faster kinetics than empty DR molecules just having lost their peptide cargo. Mathematical models demonstrate that the peptide association rate of DR molecules is substantially higher in the presence of DM. We therefore unequivocally establish that DM contributes directly to peptide association through formation of a peptide-loading complex between DM and empty Class II MHC. This complex rapidly acquires a peptide analogous to the MHC class I peptide-loading complex.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2007; 282(29):21425-36. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Superantigens (SAGs) bind simultaneously to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and T-cell receptor (TCR) molecules, resulting in the massive release of inflammatory cytokines that can lead to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and death. A major causative agent of TSS is toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1), which is unique relative to other bacterial SAGs owing to its structural divergence and its stringent TCR specificity. Here, we report the crystal structure of TSST-1 in complex with an affinity-matured variant of its wild-type TCR ligand, human T-cell receptor beta chain variable domain 2.1. From this structure and a model of the wild-type complex, we show that TSST-1 engages TCR ligands in a markedly different way than do other SAGs. We provide a structural basis for the high TCR specificity of TSST-1 and present a model of the TSST-1-dependent MHC-SAG-TCR T-cell signaling complex that is structurally and energetically unique relative to those formed by other SAGs. Our data also suggest that protein plasticity plays an exceptionally significant role in this affinity maturation process that results in more than a 3000-fold increase in affinity.
    The EMBO Journal 03/2007; 26(4):1187-97. · 9.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HLA-DM (DM) plays a critical role in Ag presentation to CD4 T cells by catalyzing the exchange of peptides bound to MHC class II molecules. Large lateral surfaces involved in the DM:HLA-DR (DR) interaction have been defined, but the mechanism of catalysis is not understood. In this study, we describe four small molecules that accelerate DM-catalyzed peptide exchange. Mechanistic studies demonstrate that these small molecules substantially enhance the catalytic efficiency of DM, indicating that they make the transition state of the DM:DR/peptide complex energetically more favorable. These compounds fall into two functional classes: two compounds are active only in the presence of DM, and binding data for one show a direct interaction with DM. The remaining two compounds have partial activity in the absence of DM, suggesting that they may act at the interface between DM and DR/peptide. A hydrophobic ridge in the DMbeta1 domain was implicated in the catalysis of peptide exchange because the activity of three of these enhancers was substantially reduced by point mutations in this area.
    The Journal of Immunology 05/2006; 176(7):4208-20. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    Melissa J Nicholson, Michael Hahn, Kai W Wucherpfennig
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    ABSTRACT: Structural studies on T cell receptors (TCRs) specific for foreign antigens demonstrated a remarkably similar topology characterized by a central, diagonal TCR binding mode that maximizes interactions with the MHC bound peptide. However, three recent structures involving autoimmune TCRs demonstrated unusual interactions with self-peptide/MHC complexes. Two TCRs from multiple sclerosis patients bind with unconventional topologies, and both TCRs are shifted toward the peptide N terminus and the MHC class II beta chain helix. A TCR from the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model binds in a conventional orientation, but the structure is unusual because the self-peptide only partially fills the binding site. For all three TCRs, interaction with the MHC bound self-peptide is suboptimal, and only two or three TCR loops contact the peptide. Optimal TCR binding modes confer a competitive advantage for antimicrobial T cells during an infection, whereas altered binding properties may permit survival of a subset of autoreactive T cells during thymic selection.
    Immunity 11/2005; 23(4):351-60. · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Autoimmune diseases are caused by self-reactive lymphocytes that have escaped deletion. Here we have determined the structure of the trimolecular complex for a T cell receptor (TCR) from a patient with multiple sclerosis that causes autoimmunity in transgenic mice. The structure showed a TCR topology notably different from that of antimicrobial TCRs. Rather than being centered on the peptide-major histocompatibility complex, this TCR contacted only the N-terminal peptide segment and made asymmetrical interactions with the major histocompatibility complex helices. The interaction was dominated by the hypervariable complementarity-determining region 3 loops, indicating that unconventional topologies are possible because of the unique complementarity-determining region 3 sequences created during rearrangement. This topology reduces the interaction surface with peptide and alters the geometry for CD4 association. We propose that unusual TCR-binding properties can permit autoreactive T cells to escape deletion.
    Nature Immunology 06/2005; 6(5):490-6. · 26.20 Impact Factor