Antigen processing and presentation by the class I major histocompatibility complex

Annu Rev Immunol. 1996;14:369-96. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.14.1.369.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules bind peptides derived from cellular proteins and display them for surveillance by the immune system. These peptide-binding molecules are composed of a heavy chain, containing an antigen-binding groove, which is tightly associated with a light chain (beta 2-microglobulin). The majority of presented peptides are generated by degradation of proteins in the cytoplasm, in many cases by a large multicatalytic proteolytic particle, the proteasome. Two beta-subunits of the proteasome, LMP2 and LMP7, are inducible by interferon-gamma and alter the catalytic activities of this particle, enhancing the presentation of at least some antigens. After production of the peptide in the cytosol, it is transported across the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane in an ATP-dependent manner by TAP (transporter associated with antigen presentation), a member of the ATP-binding cassette family of transport proteins. There are minor pathways for generating presented peptides directly in the ER, and some evidence suggests that peptides may be further trimmed in this location. The class I heavy chain and beta 2-microglobulin are cotranslationally translocated into the endoplasmic reticulum where their assembly may be facilitated by the sequential association of the heavy chain with chaperone proteins BiP and calnexin. The class I molecule then associates with the lumenal face of TAP where it is retained, presumably awaiting a peptide. After the class I molecule binds a peptide, it is released for exocytosis to the cell surface where cytotoxic T lymphocytes examine it for peptides derived from foreign proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation* / genetics
  • Genes, MHC Class I / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I