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J Immunol. 2011 Dec 1;187(11):5495-9. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1100521. Epub 2011 Oct 28.

Cutting edge: Nicastrin and related components of γ-secretase generate a peptide epitope facilitating immune recognition of intracellular mycobacteria, through MHC class II-dependent priming of T cells.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), the antituberculosis vaccine, localizes within immature phagosomes of macrophages and dendritic cells (APCs), and avoids lysosomal degradation. BCG-derived antigenic peptides are thus inefficiently processed by APCs, and we investigated alternate mechanisms of Ag processing. Proteomics identified that BCG phagosomes are enriched for nicastrin, APH, and presenilin components of γ-secretase, a multimeric protease. Using an in vitro Ag presentation assay and BCG-infected APCs, we found γ-secretase components to cleave BCG-derived Ag85B to produce a peptide epitope, which, in turn, primed IL-2 release from Ag85B-specific T cell hybridoma. siRNA knockdown or chemical inhibition of γ-secretase components using L685458 decreased the ability of BCG or Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected APCs to present Ag85B. In addition, L685485 inhibition of γ-secretase led to a decreased ability of BCG-dendritic cells to immunize mice and induce Ag85B-specific CD4 T cells in vivo. Because BCG and M. tuberculosis sequester within APCs preventing immune recognition, γ-secretase components appear to fortuitously process the immunodominant Ag85B, facilitating immune recognition.

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