Hydrophobic Interactions Are Key To Drive the Association of Tapasin with Peptide Transporter Subunit TAP2
The transporter associated with Ag processing (TAP) translocates proteasomally derived cytosolic peptides into the endoplasmic reticulum. TAP is a central component of the peptide-loading complex (PLC), to which tapasin (TPN) recruits MHC class I (MHC I) and accessory chaperones. The PLC functions to facilitate and optimize MHC I–mediated Ag presentation. The heterodimeric peptide transporter consists of two homologous subunits, TAP1 and TAP2, each of which contains an N-terminal domain (N-domain) in addition to a conserved transmembrane (TM) core segment. Each N-domain binds to the TM region of a single TPN molecule, which recruits one MHC I molecule to TAP1 and/or TAP2. Although both N-domains act as TPN-docking sites, various studies suggest a functional asymmetry within the PLC resulting in greater significance of the TAP2/TPN interaction for MHC loading. In this study, we demonstrate that the leucine-rich hydrophobic sequence stretches (with the central leucine residues L20 and L66) in the first and second TM helix of TAP2 form a functional unit acting as a docking site for optimal TPN/MHC I recruitment, whereas three distinct highly conserved arginine and/or aspartate residues inside or flanking these TM helices are dispensable. Moreover, we show that the physical interaction between TAP2 and TPN is disrupted by benzene, a compound known to interfere with hydrophobic interactions, such as those between pairing leucine zippers. No such effects were observed for the TAP1/TAP2 interaction or the complex formation between TPN and MHC I. We propose that TAP/TPN complex formation is driven by hydrophobic interactions via leucine zipper–like motifs.