Classical and non-classical MHC I molecule manipulation by human cytomegalovirus: so many targets—but how many arrows in the quiver?

Cell Mol Immunol. 2015 Mar;12(2):139-53. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2014.105. Epub 2014 Nov 24.


Major mechanisms for the recognition of pathogens by immune cells have evolved to employ classical and non-classical major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) molecules. Classical MHC I molecules present antigenic peptide ligands on infected cells to CD8(+) T cells, whereas a key function for non-classical MHC I molecules is to mediate inhibitory or activating stimuli in natural killer (NK) cells. The structural diversity of MHC I puts immense pressure on persisting viruses, including cytomegaloviruses. The very large coding capacity of the human cytomegalovirus allows it to express a whole arsenal of immunoevasive factors assigned to individual MHC class I targets. This review summarizes achievements from more than two decades of intense research on how human cytomegalovirus manipulates MHC I molecules and escapes elimination by the immune system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Membrane Glycoproteins