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Human cytomegalovirus (hCMV) reactivation may often coincide with the development of graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) in stem cell transplantation (SCT). Seventy seven SCT donor-recipient pairs (DRP) (HLA matched unrelated donor (MUD), n = 50; matched related donor (MRD), n = 27) underwent whole exome sequencing to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) generating alloreactive peptide libraries for each DRP (9-mer peptide-HLA complexes); Human CMV CROSS (Cross-Reactive Open Source Sequence) database was compiled from NCBI; HLA class I binding affinity for each DRPs HLA was calculated by NetMHCpan 2.8 and hCMV- derived 9-mers algorithmically compared to the alloreactive peptide-HLA complex libraries. Short consecutive (≥6) amino acid (AA) sequence homology matching hCMV to recipient peptides was considered for HLA-bound-peptide (IC50<500nM) cross reactivity. Of the 70,686 hCMV 9-mers contained within the hCMV CROSS database, an average of 29,658 matched the MRD DRP alloreactive peptides and 52,910 matched MUD DRP peptides (p<0.001). In silico analysis revealed multiple high affinity, immunogenic CMV-Human peptide matches (IC50<500 nM) expressed in GVHD-affected tissue-specific manner. hCMV+GVHD was found in 18 patients, 13 developing hCMV viremia before GVHD onset. Analysis of patients with GVHD identified potential cross reactive peptide expression within affected organs. We propose that hCMV peptide sequence homology with human alloreactive peptides may contribute to the pathophysiology of GVHD.


Charles E Hall, Vishal N Koparde, Maximilian Jameson-Lee, Abdelrhman G Elnasseh, Allison F Scalora, David J Kobulnicky, Myrna G Serrano, Catherine H Roberts, Gregory A Buck, Michael C Neale, Daniel E Nixon, Amir A Toor. Sequence homology between HLA-bound cytomegalovirus and human peptides: A potential trigger for alloreactivity. PloS one. 2017;12(8):e0178763

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PMID: 28800601

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