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Immunity. 1999 Feb;10(2):197-206.

Cathepsin S required for normal MHC class II peptide loading and germinal center development.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules acquire antigenic peptides after degradation of the invariant chain (Ii), an MHC class II-associated protein that otherwise blocks peptide binding. Antigen-presenting cells of mice that lack the protease cathepsin S fail to process Ii beyond a 10 kDa fragment, resulting in delayed peptide loading and accumulation of cell surface MHC class II/10 kDa Ii complexes. Although cathepsin S-deficient mice have normal numbers of B and T cells and normal IgE responses, they show markedly impaired antibody class switching to IgG2a and IgG3. These results indicate cathepsin S is a major Ii-processing enzyme in splenocytes and dendritic cells. Its role in humoral immunity critically depends on how antigens access the immune system.

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