The invariant chain (CD74) mediates assembly and targeting of MHC class II (MHCII) complexes. In endosomes, CD74 undergoes sequential degradation by different proteases, including cathepsin S (CatS) and the intramembrane protease signal peptide peptidase-like 2a (SPPL2a). In their absence, CD74 N-terminal fragments (NTFs) accumulate. In SPPL2a-/- B cells, such an NTF impairs endosomal trafficking and BCR signal transduction. In mice, this leads to a loss of splenic B cells beyond the transitional stage 1. To gain insight into CD74 determinants and the role of MHCII, we compared B cells from CatS-/- , SPPL2a-/- , and SPPL2a-MHCII double-deficient mice. We assessed differentiation of B cells in bone marrow and spleen and analyzed their endosomal morphology, BCR expression, and signal transduction. We demonstrate that MHCII is dispensable for the B cell phenotype of SPPL2a-/- mice, further supporting a CD74-intrinsic effect. Despite significant vacuolization of endosomal compartments similar to SPPL2a-/- B cells, CatS-/- traditional stage 1 B cells show unimpaired degradation of endocytic cargo, have intact BCR signaling, and do not exhibit any relevant defects in maturation. This could indicate that CD74 NTF-induced structural changes of endosomes are not directly involved in these processes. We further found that the block of CD74 degradation in CatS-/- B cells is incomplete, so that NTF levels are significantly lower than in SPPL2a-/- B cells. This suggests a dose dependency and threshold for the CD74 NTF-associated impairment of B cell signaling and maturation. In addition, different functional properties of the longer, MHCII-bound CD74 NTF could contribute to the milder phenotype of CatS-/- B cells.
Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.