The cytosolic tail of the major histocompatibility complex class II-associated invariant chain (Ii) molecule is thought to contain the endosomal localization signal that directs and/or retains newly synthesized class II within the endosomal antigen processing compartment. To determine the role of this signal in class II transport and antigen presentation we have generated class II-positive L cell transfectants that coexpress wild type or truncated forms of Ii. Deletion of the endosomal localization signal from Ii results in rapid transport of class II-Ii complexes to the cell surface. Once at the cell surface, the complex is efficiently internalized, Ii is degraded, and class II free of Ii is recycled back to the plasma membrane. Interestingly, the truncated form of Ii is still able to increase the efficiency of antigen presentation to T cells. These data suggest that the ability of Ii to enhance antigen presentation is not limited to Golgi apparatus-endosomal sorting and raise the possibility that endocytosed class II can form immunogenic complexes with newly processed antigen.

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