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Crit Rev Immunol. 1997;17(5-6):411-7.

Antigen-presenting cells and the selection of immunodominant epitopes.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Walther Oncology Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis 46202, USA.


Cellular immune responses are directed against a narrow set of immunodominant peptides derived from complex antigens. By contrast, epitopes that are hidden or infrequent targets of immune responses have been termed cryptic or subdominant. Although the identification of immunodominant epitopes is important for vaccine development, understanding immunological reactivity to cryptic or subdominant epitopes may hold clues to autoimmunity. We have examined the role of antigen-presenting (APC) cells in the selection of class Ii-restricted epitopes for display to T lymphocytes. The formation and MHC-restricted presentation of distinct antigenic epitopes is directly dependent upon processing and ligand binding reactions within APC. A novel MHC heterodimer, HLA-DM, facilitates the binding and presentation of peptides by class II DR, DP, and DQ molecules. We have demonstrated that some epitopes derived from endogenous antigens bind class II proteins independent of DM, whereas the presentation of other endogenous peptides is greatly influenced by DM expression. Targeting of exogenous antigens into specialized processing compartments within APC appears to overcome the requirement for DM in antigen presentation. These studies suggest HLA-DM may play a role in epitope selection and immunodominance.

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