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Immunity. 1997 Mar;6(3):293-302.

HLA-DM acts as a molecular chaperone and rescues empty HLA-DR molecules at lysosomal pH.

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Department of Molecular Immunology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany.


HLA-DM (DM) is a nonclassical MHC class II molecule that interacts with classical MHC II molecules in acidic compartments. During this association DM is supposed to catalyze the release of invariant chain (Ii)-derived CLIP peptides, as well as other peptides bound with low kinetic stability. Here we provide evidence that in lysosomal compartments of B cells a considerable fraction of DM is stably associated with empty DR alphabeta dimers, thereby preventing their functional inactivation and aggregation. Upon encounter with cognate peptide, the DM-associated DR molecules can be rapidly loaded and no longer bind to DM. Thus, DM seems to act as a dedicated class II-specific chaperone. In view of the suggested shortage of DM-resistant self-peptides in the loading compartment, empty class II molecules that are chaperoned by DM may enable the antigen-processing system to respond promptly to the challenge by newly entering antigens.

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