Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules acquire antigenic peptides after degradation of the invariant chain (Ii), an MHC class II-associated protein that otherwise blocks peptide binding. Antigen-presenting cells of mice that lack the protease cathepsin S fail to process Ii beyond a 10 kDa fragment, resulting in delayed peptide loading and accumulation of cell surface MHC class II/10 kDa Ii complexes. Although cathepsin S-deficient mice have normal numbers of B and T cells and normal IgE responses, they show markedly impaired antibody class switching to IgG2a and IgG3. These results indicate cathepsin S is a major Ii-processing enzyme in splenocytes and dendritic cells. Its role in humoral immunity critically depends on how antigens access the immune system.