The Biology and Underlying Mechanisms of Cross-Presentation of Exogenous Antigens on MHC-I Molecules

Annu Rev Immunol. 2017 Apr 26;35:149-176. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-041015-055254. Epub 2017 Jan 11.


To monitor the health of cells, the immune system tasks antigen-presenting cells with gathering antigens from other cells and bringing them to CD8 T cells in the form of peptides bound to MHC-I molecules. Most cells would be unable to perform this function because they use their MHC-I molecules to exclusively present peptides derived from the cell's own proteins. However, the immune system evolved mechanisms for dendritic cells and some other phagocytes to sample and present antigens from the extracellular milieu on MHC-I through a process called cross-presentation. How this important task is accomplished, its role in health and disease, and its potential for exploitation are the subject of this review.

Keywords: CD8 T lymphocytes; antigen presentation; antigen processing; dendritic cell; immune surveillance; phagosomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cross-Priming*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Phagocytosis


  • Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I