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Nat Rev Immunol. 2001 Nov;1(2):126-34.

Cross-presentation in viral immunity and self-tolerance.

Author information

  • 1Immunology Division, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia. heath@wehi.edu.au


T lymphocytes recognize peptide antigens presented by class I and class II molecules encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Classical antigen-presentation studies showed that MHC class I molecules present peptides derived from proteins synthesized within the cell, whereas MHC class II molecules present exogenous proteins captured from the environment. Emerging evidence indicates, however, that dendritic cells have a specialized capacity to process exogenous antigens into the MHC class I pathway. This function, known as cross-presentation, provides the immune system with an important mechanism for generating immunity to viruses and tolerance to self.

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