Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 425–441

Roles for major histocompatibility complex glycosylation in immune function


DOI: 10.1007/s00281-012-0309-9

Cite this article as:
Ryan, S.O. & Cobb, B.A. Semin Immunopathol (2012) 34: 425. doi:10.1007/s00281-012-0309-9


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) glycoprotein family, also referred to as human leukocyte antigens, present endogenous and exogenous antigens to T lymphocytes for recognition and response. These molecules play a central role in enabling the immune system to distinguish self from non-self, which is the basis for protective immunity against pathogenic infections and disease while at the same time representing a serious obstacle for tissue transplantation. All known MHC family members, like the majority of secreted, cell surface, and other immune-related molecules, carry asparagine (N)-linked glycans. The immune system has evolved increasing complexity in higher-order organisms along with a more complex pattern of protein glycosylation, a relationship that may contribute to immune function beyond the early protein quality control events in the endoplasmic reticulum that are commonly known. The broad MHC family maintains peptide sequence motifs for glycosylation at sites that are highly conserved across evolution, suggesting importance, yet functional roles for these glycans remain largely elusive. In this review, we will summarize what is known about MHC glycosylation and provide new insight for additional functional roles for this glycoprotein modification in mediating immune responses.


GlycosylationMHCHLAN-GlycanAntigen presentationClass IClass IINon-classical class I

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PathologyCase Western Reserve University School of MedicineClevelandUSA