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J Biol Chem. 2011 Feb 4;286(5):3970-80. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.159392. Epub 2010 Oct 27.

TNF-alpha induces macroautophagy and regulates MHC class II expression in human skeletal muscle cells.

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Laboratory of Viral Immunobiology, Christopher H. Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10065, USA.


Macroautophagy, a homeostatic process that shuttles cytoplasmic constituents into endosomal and lysosomal compartments, has recently been shown to deliver antigens for presentation on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules. Skeletal muscle fibers show a high level of constitutive macroautophagy and express MHC class II molecules upon immune activation. We found that tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), a monokine overexpressed in inflammatory myopathies, led to a marked up-regulation of macroautophagy in skeletal myocytes. Furthermore, TNF-α augmented surface expression of MHC class II molecules in interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-treated myoblasts. The synergistic effect of TNF-α and IFN-γ on the induction of MHC class II surface expression was not reflected by higher intracellular human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR levels and was reversed by macroautophagy inhibition, suggesting that TNF-α facilitates antigen processing via macroautophagy for more efficient MHC class II loading. Muscle biopsies from patients with sporadic inclusion body myositis, a well defined myopathy with chronic inflammation, showed that over 20% of fibers that contained autophagosomes costained for MHC class II molecules and that more than 40% of double-positive muscle fibers had contact with CD4(+) and CD8(+) immune cells. These findings establish a mechanism through which TNF-α regulates both macroautophagy and MHC class II expression and suggest that macroautophagy-mediated antigen presentation contributes to the immunological environment of the inflamed human skeletal muscle.

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