Class II MHC molecules can use the endogenous pathway of antigen presentation

Nature. 1990 Jan 4;343(6253):74-6. doi: 10.1038/343074a0.


Models for antigen presentation have divided the world of antigens into two categories, endogenous and exogenous, presented to T cells by class I and class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) encoded molecules, respectively. Exogenous antigens are though to be taken up into peripheral endosomal compartments where they are processed for binding to class II MHC molecules. Endogenous antigens are either synthesized or efficiently delivered to the cytoplasm before being partially degraded in an as yet undefined way, and complexed with class I MHC molecules. A useful phenotypic distinction between the two pathways has been the sensitivity to weak bases, such as chloroquine, which is a property only of the exogenous pathway. The fungal antibiotic brefeldin A (BFA), which blocks protein transport from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi network, also blocks class I-restricted antigen-presentation, providing us with the corresponding marker of the endogenous pathway. Experiments with influenza virus antigens have supported the view that class II MHC molecules can present exogenous but not endogenous antigen, whereas the observation that class II MHC molecules present measles virus non-membrane antigens by a chloroquine-insensitive pathway suggests that this is not always the case. We show here that influenza A matrix protein can be effectively presented to class II-restricted T cells by two pathways: one of which is chloroquine-sensitive, BFA-insensitive, the other being chloroquine-insensitive and BFA-sensitive. Our results indicate that both class I and class II molecules can complex with antigenic peptides in a pre-Golgi compartment and favour a unified mechanism for MHC-restricted endogenous antigen presentation.

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / physiology*
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Brefeldin A
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Chloroquine / pharmacology
  • Cyclopentanes / pharmacology
  • Cytoplasm / immunology
  • HLA-D Antigens / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Influenza A virus / immunology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins / immunology*


  • Cyclopentanes
  • HLA-D Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Brefeldin A
  • Chloroquine