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Immunology. 2000 May;100(1):13-20.

Lysosomal cathepsin B plays an important role in antigen processing, while cathepsin D is involved in degradation of the invariant chain inovalbumin-immunized mice.

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Department of Parasitology and Immunology, University of Tokushima, School of Medicine, Tokushima, Japan.


We previously reported that CA074, a specific inhibitor of cathepsin B, modulates specific immune responses from the T helper 2 (Th2) type to Th1 type in BALB/c mice infected with Leishmania major. In the present study, we found that a similar type of immune deviation was also induced in mice immunized with ovalbumin (OVA). However, treatment of mice with pepstatin A, a specific cathepsin D inhibitor, suppressed the OVA-specific proliferation of lymphocytes and blocked the development of both Th1 and Th2 cellular responses. These inhibitors did not appear to have any direct influence in vitro on functions of naive lymphocytes. OVA antigen (47 000 MW) was digested mainly into 40 000 MW protein in vitro by lysosomal proteases from naive BALB/c mice, and its digestion was markedly inhibited by the addition of CA074, but not by addition of pepstatin A, during incubation. However, pepstatin A strongly suppressed the degradation of the major histocompatibility complex class II-associated invariant chain (Ii) molecule in vivo and in vitro. Thus, cathepsin B appears to process antigens directed to preferential activation of Th2 cells, while cathepsin D may be responsible for the degradation of Ii, the processing of which is essential in initiating the antigen-specific activation of Th1 and Th2 CD4+ T cells. These lysosomal proteases may have different functions in regulating immune responses.

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