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Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2011 Mar;15(3):237-51. doi: 10.1517/14728222.2011.550879. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

CD74: an emerging opportunity as a therapeutic target in cancer and autoimmune disease.

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Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Clinical Medicine, Clinical Immunology Unit, Umberto I Policlinico di Roma, 155 Viale del Policlinico, Rome, IT 00161.



CD74, also known as the invariant chain, participates in several key processes of the immune system, including antigen presentation, B-cell differentiation and inflammatory signaling. Despite being described more than 3 decades ago, new functions and novel interactions for this evolutionarily conserved molecule are still being unraveled. As a participant in several immunological processes and an indicator of disease in some conditions, it has potential as a therapeutic target.


The relationship between the structure of CD74 variants and their physiological functions is detailed in this review. The function of CD74 in several cell lineages is examined with a focus on the interactions with cathepsins and, in an inflammatory milieu, the pro-inflammatory cytokine macrophage migratory inhibitory factor. The role of CD74 signaling in inflammatory and carcinogenic processes is outlined as is the use of CD74 as a therapeutic target (in cancer) and tool (as a vaccine).


CD74 has several roles within the cell and throughout the immune system. Most prominent amongst these are the complex relationships with MIF and cathepsins. Modulation of CD74 function shows promise for the effective amelioration of disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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