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EMBO J. 1994 Feb 1;13(3):675-82.

A role for calnexin (IP90) in the assembly of class II MHC molecules.

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Section of Immunobiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigens consist of alpha and beta chains that associate intracellularly with the invariant (I) chain. The HLA-DR alpha beta I complex assembles in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) into a nonameric structure via progressive addition of three alpha beta dimers to a core invariant chain trimer. We have examined intracellular association of alpha beta I complexes with the resident ER protein calnexin. Calnexin associates rapidly (within 3 min) with newly synthesized alpha, beta and I chains, and remains associated with the assembling alpha beta I complex until the final alpha beta dimer is added, forming the complete nonamer. Dissociation of calnexin parallels egress of alpha beta I from the ER. These results suggest that calnexin retains and stabilizes both free class II subunits and partially assembled class II-I chain complexes until assembly of the nonamer is complete.

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