Send to

Choose Destination
Cell. 1991 May 17;65(4):611-20.

Dissociation of beta 2-microglobulin leads to the accumulation of a substantial pool of inactive class I MHC heavy chains on the cell surface.

Author information

Division of Lymphocyte Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


A large pool of free class I heavy chains is detected in situ on the plasma membrane of living cells. These chains are present on cells of different MHC genotypes and appear to exist under physiological conditions in vivo. These molecules arise from the dissociation of previously assembled class I heterodimers at the cell surface. The ratio of intact to dissociated heterodimers is strongly affected by the occupancy of the peptide-binding site of the class I molecule. Upon dissociation of the heterodimer, the class I molecule is functionally inactive. These findings may help to explain why class I molecules on the cell surface are unreceptive to binding peptides yet readily associate with peptides in the presence of exogenous beta 2-microglobulin. These results have implications for understanding the distinct functions of class I versus class II molecules and how the immunological identity of cells is preserved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center