Defects in HLA class I antigen processing machinery (APM) component expression often have a negative impact on the clinical course of tumors and on the response to T cell-based immunotherapy. Since only scant information is available about the frequency and clinical significance of HLA class I APM component abnormalities in prostate cancer, the APM component expression pattern was analyzed in 59 primary prostate carcinoma, adjacent normal tissues, as well as in prostate carcinoma cell lines. The IFN-gamma inducible proteasome subunits LMP2 and LMP7, TAP1, TAP2, calnexin, calreticulin, ERp57, and tapasin are strongly expressed in the cytoplasm of normal prostate cells, whereas HLA class I heavy chain (HC) and beta(2)-microglobulin are expressed on the cell surface. Most of the APM components were downregulated in a substantial number of prostate cancers. With the exception of HLA class I HC, TAP2 and ERp57 not detectable in about 0.5% of tumor lesions, all other APM components were not detected in at least 21% of lesions analyzed. These APM component defects were associated with a higher Gleason grade of tumors and an early disease recurrence. Prostate carcinoma cell lines also exhibit a heterogeneous, but reduced constitutive APM component expression pattern associated with lack or reduced HLA class I surface antigens, which could be upregulated by IFN-gamma. Our results suggest that HLA class I APM component abnormalities are mainly due to regulatory mechanisms, play a role in the clinical course of prostate cancer and on the outcome of T cell-based immunotherapies.