Digging deeper into the immunopeptidome: characterization of post-translationally modified peptides presented by MHC I

Mangalaparthi, Kiran K., et al. “Digging Deeper into the Immunopeptidome: Characterization of Post-Translationally Modified Peptides Presented by MHC I.” Journal of Proteins and Proteomics, Springer Science and Business Media LLC, June 2021. Crossref, doi:10.1007/s42485-021-00066-x.


Peptides presented by MHC molecules on the cell surface, or the immunopeptidome, play an important role in the adaptive arm of the immune response. Antigen processing for MHC class I molecules is a ubiquitous pathway present in all nucleated cells which generates and presents peptides of both self and non-self-origin. Peptides with post-translational modifications represent one category of peptides presented by MHC class I molecules. However, owing to the complexity of self-peptides presented by cells, the diversity of peptides with post-translational modifications is not well-studied. In this study, we carried out MHC Class I immunopeptidomics analysis of Loucy T-cell leukemia and A375 malignant melanoma cell line to characterize the diversity of post-translational modifications of MHC class I-bound peptides. Using high resolution mass spectrometry, we identified 25,761 MHC-bound peptides across both cell lines using Bolt and Sequest search engines. The enrichment method was highly specific as ~ 90% of the peptides were of typical length (8–12 amino acids long) and the motifs were expected based on previously reported motifs for MHC I alleles. Among the MHC-bound peptides, we identified phosphorylation as a major post-translational modification followed by deamidation. We observed site-specific localization of these post-translational modifications, at position P4 for phosphorylated peptides and position P3 for deamidated peptides. We identified a smaller number of peptides with acetylated and methylated lysine, possibly due to very low stoichiometric levels of these PTMs compared to phosphorylation and deamidation. Using PEAKS de novo sequencing algorithm, we identified spliced peptides that accounted for ~ 5–7% of MHC-bound peptides that were otherwise similar in their features as normal MHC-bound peptides. We validated the identity of several post-translationally modified peptides and spliced peptides through mass spectrometric analysis of synthetic peptides. Our study confirms post-translationally modified peptides to be present at low stoichiometric levels along with unusual spliced peptides through unbiased identification using high resolution mass spectrometry.