Towards a systems understanding of MHC class I and MHC class II antigen presentation

Nat Rev Immunol. 2011 Nov 11;11(12):823-36. doi: 10.1038/nri3084.


The molecular details of antigen processing and presentation by MHC class I and class II molecules have been studied extensively for almost three decades. Although the basic principles of these processes were laid out approximately 10 years ago, the recent years have revealed many details and provided new insights into their control and specificity. MHC molecules use various biochemical reactions to achieve successful presentation of antigenic fragments to the immune system. Here we present a timely evaluation of the biology of antigen presentation and a survey of issues that are considered unresolved. The continuing flow of new details into our understanding of the biology of MHC class I and class II antigen presentation builds a system involving several cell biological processes, which is discussed in this Review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / genetics
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology*
  • Biological Transport
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Genes, MHC Class I
  • Genes, MHC Class II
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Multiprotein Complexes / immunology
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / immunology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Systems Theory


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Peptide Fragments
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex