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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):20188-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312994110. Epub 2013 Nov 25.

Internalizing MHC class II-peptide complexes are ubiquitinated in early endosomes and targeted for lysosomal degradation.

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  • 1Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


As sentinels of the immune system, dendritic cells (DCs) continuously generate and turnover antigenic peptide-MHC class II complexes (pMHC-II). pMHC-II generation is a complex process that involves many well-characterized MHC-II biosynthetic intermediates; however, the mechanisms leading to MHC-II turnover/degradation are poorly understood. We now show that pMHC-II complexes undergoing clathrin-independent endocytosis from the DC surface are efficiently ubiquitinated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase March-I in early endosomes, whereas biosynthetically immature MHC-II-Invariant chain (Ii) complexes are not. The inability of MHC-II-Ii to serve as a March-I substrate is a consequence of Ii sorting motifs that divert the MHC-II-Ii complex away from March-I(+) early endosomes. When these sorting motifs are mutated, or when clathrin-mediated endocytosis is inhibited, MHC-II-Ii complexes internalize by using a clathrin-independent endocytosis pathway and are now ubiquitinated as efficiently as pMHC-II complexes. These data show that the selective ubiquitination of internalizing surface pMHC-II in March-I(+) early endosomes promotes degradation of "old" pMHC-II and spares forms of MHC-II that have not yet loaded antigenic peptides or have not yet reached the DC surface.

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