, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 253-267

Endogenous antigen presentation by MHC class II molecules

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Abstract

T cell recognition of antigen requires that a complex form between peptides derived from the protein antigen and cell surface glycoproteins encoded by genes within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). MHC class II molecules present both extracellular (exogenous) and internally synthesized (endogenous) antigens to the CD4 T cell subset of lymphocytes. The mechanisms of endogenous antigen presentation are the subject of this review. Isolation and amino acid sequencing of peptides bound to the class II molecule indicate that a very high proportion (70–90%) of the total peptides presented by the class II molecule are in fact derived from the pool of proteins that are synthetized within the antigen-presenting cell (APC). This type of sequence information as well as the study of model antigens has indicated that proteins expressed in a diversity of intracellular sites, including the cell surface, endoplasmic reticulum and cytosol can gain access to the class II molecule, albeit with different efficiencies. The main questions that remain to be answered are the intracellular trafficking patterns that allow colocalization of internally synthesized antigens with the class II molecule, the site(s) within the cell where peptide: class II molecule complex formation can take place and whether presentation of ‘foreign’ as well as ‘self’ antigens takes place by mechanisms that vary from one cell type to another or that vary with the metabolic state of the APC. If such variability exists, is would imply that the array of peptides displayed by class II molecules at the cell surface has similar variability, a possibility that would impact on self tolerance and autoimmunity.