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J Cell Biol. 1997 Nov 3;139(3):639-49.

Major histocompatibility complex class II compartments in human and mouse B lymphoblasts represent conventional endocytic compartments.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, School of Medicine and Institute of Biomembranes, Utrecht University, 3584 CX Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In most human and mouse antigen-presenting cells, the majority of intracellular major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules resides in late endocytic MHC class II compartments (MIICs), thought to function in antigen processing and peptide loading. However, in mouse A20 B cells, early endocytic class II-containing vesicles (CIIVs) have been reported to contain most of the intracellular MHC class II molecules and have also been implicated in formation of MHC class II-peptide complexes. To address this discrepancy, we have studied in great detail the endocytic pathways of both a human (6H5.DM) and a mouse (A20.Ab) B cell line. Using quantitative immunoelectron microscopy on cryosections of cells that had been pulse-chased with transferrin-HRP or BSA-gold as endocytic tracers, we have identified up to six endocytic subcompartments including an early MIIC type enriched in invariant chain, suggesting that it serves as an important entrance to the endocytic pathway for newly synthesized MHC class II/invariant chain complexes. In addition, early MIICs represented the earliest endocytic compartment containing MHC class II- peptide complexes, as shown by using an antibody against an abundant endogenous class II-peptide complex. The early MIIC exhibited several though not all of the characteristics reported for the CIIV and was situated just downstream of early endosomes. We have not encountered any special class II-containing endocytic structures besides those normally present in nonantigen-presenting cells. Our results therefore suggest that B cells use conventional endocytic compartments rather than having developed a unique compartment to accomplish MHC class II presentation.

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