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J Biol Chem. 2001 Sep 28;276(39):36474-81. Epub 2001 Jul 30.

Major histocompatibility complex class I-presented antigenic peptides are degraded in cytosolic extracts primarily by thimet oligopeptidase.

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


Nearly all peptides generated by proteasomes during protein degradation are digested rapidly to amino acids, but a few proteasomal products escape this fate and are presented to the immune system on cell surface major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. To test whether these antigenic peptides may be inherently resistant to cytosolic peptidases, six different antigenic peptides were incubated with HeLa cell extracts. All six were degraded rapidly by a process involving o-phenanthroline-sensitive metallopeptidases. One antigenic peptide, FAPGNYPAL, was rapidly destroyed in the extracts by a bestatin-sensitive exopeptidase, apparently by the puromycin-sensitive aminopeptidase. The disappearance of the other five was reduced 30-90% by a specific inhibitor of the cytosolic endopeptidase, thimet oligopeptidase (TOP) (EC ), whose physiological function(s) have been unclear and controversial. All these peptides were sensitive to pure recombinant TOP. Furthermore, upon fractionation of the extracts, the major peptidase peak that degraded the ovalbumin-derived epitope, SIINFEKL, co-purified with TOP. In the extracts, TOP also catalyzed rapid degradation of N-extended variants of SIINFEKL and of other antigenic peptides, which in vivo can serve as precursors of these major histocompatibility complex-presented epitopes. This enzyme (unlike cell proteins that promote production of antigenic peptides) is not regulated by interferon-gamma. TOP seems to be primarily responsible for the rapid breakdown of antigenic peptides in cytosolic extracts, and our related studies (A. X. Y. Mo, K. Lemerise, W. Zeng, Y. Shen, C. R. Abraham, A. L. Goldberg, and K. L. Rock, submitted for publication) indicate that TOP by destroying such peptides limits antigen presentation in vivo.

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