Cross-presentation in viral immunity and self-tolerance

Nat Rev Immunol. 2001 Nov;1(2):126-34. doi: 10.1038/35100512.


T lymphocytes recognize peptide antigens presented by class I and class II molecules encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Classical antigen-presentation studies showed that MHC class I molecules present peptides derived from proteins synthesized within the cell, whereas MHC class II molecules present exogenous proteins captured from the environment. Emerging evidence indicates, however, that dendritic cells have a specialized capacity to process exogenous antigens into the MHC class I pathway. This function, known as cross-presentation, provides the immune system with an important mechanism for generating immunity to viruses and tolerance to self.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Immunological
  • Self Tolerance*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Viruses / immunology*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II