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Nature. 1990 May 17;345(6272):258-60.

Selective killing of hepatitis B envelope antigen-specific B cells by class I-restricted, exogenous antigen-specific T lymphocytes.

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Fondazione Andrea Cesalpino, Università La Sapienza, Roma, Italy.


Specific B lymphocytes can act as very efficient antigen-presenting cells. They bind antigen with high affinity via their immunoglobulin receptors, process it through the class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) pathway, and present its fragments to class II-restricted T lymphocytes. In general, exogenous antigens and noninfectious viral particles enter the class II pathway and are selectively associated with class II MHC molecules. The presentation of an exogenous antigen in association with class I molecules has been reported for only a few antigens, including the hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBenvAg). Here we demonstrate that antigen-specific B cells can efficiently deliver HBenvAg to the class I pathway, presenting its fragments to class I-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) which kill the specific B cells. This could represent a mechanism of suppression of neutralizing anti-hepatitis B virus (HBV) antibody response, a phenomenon that accompanies the development of the chronic HBV-carrier state.

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