The source of peptides that enter the major histocompatibility class I (MHCI) pathway has been intensively debated over the last two decades. The initial assumption that peptides are derived from degradation of full length proteins was challenged by a model in which alternative translation products are a source of peptides. This model has been tested and supported by scientific data. We now need new hypotheses on the physiological implications of different sources of peptides for the MHCI pathway. The aim of this overview is to give an up-to-date account of the source of antigenic peptide material for the MHCI pathway and to incorporate the more recent observations of alternative mRNA translation products into existing models of the direct and cross-presentation pathways.
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