CIITA and Its Dual Roles in MHC Gene Transcription

Front Immunol. 2013 Dec 20;4:476. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00476.


Class II transactivator (CIITA) is a transcriptional coactivator that regulates γ-interferon-activated transcription of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class I and II genes. As such, it plays a critical role in immune responses: CIITA deficiency results in aberrant MHC gene expression and consequently in autoimmune diseases such as Type II bare lymphocyte syndrome. Although CIITA does not bind DNA directly, it regulates MHC transcription in two distinct ways - as a transcriptional activator and as a general transcription factor. As an activator, CIITA nucleates an enhanceosome consisting of the DNA binding transcription factors RFX, cyclic AMP response element binding protein, and NF-Y. As a general transcription factor, CIITA functionally replaces the TFIID component, TAF1. Like TAF1, CIITA possesses acetyltransferase (AT) and kinase activities, both of which contribute to proper transcription of MHC class I and II genes. The substrate specificity and regulation of the CIITA AT and kinase activities also parallel those of TAF1. In addition, CIITA is tightly regulated by its various regulatory domains that undergo phosphorylation and influence its targeted localization. Thus, a complex picture of the mechanisms regulating CIITA function is emerging suggesting that CIITA has dual roles in transcriptional regulation which are summarized in this review.

Keywords: CIITA; MHC transcription; NLR/CATERPILLER proteins; TAF1; enhanceosome; general transcription factors.