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EMBO J. 2001 May 15;20(10):2357-66.

26S proteasomes and immunoproteasomes produce mainly N-extended versions of an antigenic peptide.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Protein degradation by proteasomes is the source of most antigenic peptides presented on MHC class I molecules. To determine whether proteasomes generate these peptides directly or longer precursors, we developed new methods to measure the efficiency with which 26S and 20S particles, during degradation of a protein, generate the presented epitope or potential precursors. Breakdown of ovalbumin by the 26S and 20S proteasomes yielded the immunodominant peptide SIINFEKL, but produced primarily variants containing 1-7 additional N-terminal residues. Only 6-8% of the times that ovalbumin molecules were digested was a SIINFEKL or an N-extended version produced. Surprisingly, immunoproteasomes which contain the interferon-gamma-induced beta-subunits and are more efficient in antigen presentation, produced no more SIINFEKL than proteasomes. However, the immunoproteasomes released 2-4 times more of certain N-extended versions. These observations show that the changes in cleavage specificity of immunoproteasomes influence not only the C-terminus, but also the N-terminus of potential antigenic peptides, and suggest that most MHC-presented peptides result from N-terminal trimming of larger proteasome products by aminopeptidases (e.g. the interferon-gamma-induced enzyme leucine aminopeptidase).

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