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J Exp Med. 2000 Apr 3;191(7):1177-86.

Role for cathepsin F in invariant chain processing and major histocompatibility complex class II peptide loading by macrophages.

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


The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-associated invariant chain (Ii) regulates intracellular trafficking and peptide loading of MHC class II molecules. Such loading occurs after endosomal degradation of the invariant chain to a approximately 3-kD peptide termed CLIP (class II-associated invariant chain peptide). Cathepsins L and S have both been implicated in degradation of Ii to CLIP in thymus and peripheral lymphoid organs, respectively. However, macrophages from mice deficient in both cathepsins S and L can process Ii and load peptides onto MHC class II dimers normally. Both processes are blocked by a cysteine protease inhibitor, indicating the involvement of an additional Ii-processing enzyme(s). Comparison of cysteine proteases expressed by macrophages with those found in splenocytes and dendritic cells revealed two enzymes expressed exclusively in macrophages, cathepsins Z and F. Recombinant cathepsin Z did not generate CLIP from Ii-MHC class II complexes, whereas cathepsin F was as efficient as cathepsin S in CLIP generation. Inhibition of cathepsin F activity and MHC class II peptide loading by macrophages exhibited similar specificity and activity profiles. These experiments show that cathepsin F, in a subset of antigen presenting cells (APCs), can efficiently degrade Ii. Different APCs can thus use distinct proteases to mediate MHC class II maturation and peptide loading.

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