Antigen presentation by MHC class II molecules: Invariant chain function, protein trafficking, and the molecular basis of diverse determinant capture

Flora Castellino, Guangming Zhong, Ronald N. Germain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

103 Scopus citations


Major histocompatibility complex class II molecules are heterodimeric integral membrane proteins whose primary function is the presentation of antigenic peptides derived from proteins entering the endocytic pathway to CD4+ T lymphocytes. To accomplish this physiologic function, class II molecules must assemble in the secretory pathway without undergoing irreversible ligand association at that site, traffic efficiently to the endocytic pathway, and productively interact with protein ligands in these organelles before their ultimate expression on the plasma membrane. Here we review our work describing how invariant chain promotes the assembly and transport process, the complex itinerary of class II-invariant chain complexes through the endocytic path-way, the role of large protein fragments as substrates for class II binding, and the existence of a second pathway for antigen capture by mature class II molecules that complements that involving newly synthesized dimers. We integrate these observations into a coherent model for the operation of a class II-dependent antigen processing and presentation system able to capture diverse antigenic determinants present in proteins of varying structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 1997


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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