, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 85-105

Novel mechanisms of class II major histocompatibility complex gene regulation

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Class II MHC molecules present processed peptides from exogenous antigens to CD4+helper T lymphocytes. In so doing, they are central to immunity, driving both the humoral and cell mediated arms of the immune response. Class II MHC molecules, and the genes encoding them, are expressed primarily in cells of the immune system (B cells, thymic epithelial cells, activated T cells and professional antigen presenting cells). The expression is also under developmental control. Research over the past 20 years have provided a clear understanding of the cis-elements and transcription factors that regulate the expression of Class II MHC genes Perhaps the most critical advance has been the discovery of CIITA, a non-DNA binding activator of transcription that is a master control gene for class II gene expression. Current research is focused on understanding the situations where class II MHC gene expression occurs in a CIITA-independent pathway, and the molecular basis for this expression. Finally, significant emphasis is being placed on targeting class II MHC transcription factors to either inhibit or stimulate the immune response to transplanted tissue or in cell based vaccines. This communication outlines recent advances in this field and discusses likely areas for future research.