Presentation of exogenous protein antigens to T lymphocytes is based on the intersection of two complex pathways: (a) synthesis, assembly, and transport of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-invariant chain complexes from the endoplasmic reticulum to a specialized endosomal compartment, and (b) endocytosis, denaturation, and proteolysis of antigens followed by loading of antigenic peptides onto newly synthesized MHC class II molecules. It is believed that expression of MHC class II heterodimers, invariant chain and human leukocyte antigen-DM is both necessary and sufficient to reconstitute a functional MHC class II loading compartment in antigen-presenting cells. Expression of each of these essential molecules is under the control of the MHC class II transactivator CIITA. Unexpectedly, however, whereas interferon gamma stimulation does confer effective antigen-processing function to nonprofessional antigen presenting cells, such as melanoma cells, expression of the CIITA transactivator alone is not sufficient. Activation of antigen-specific T cells thus requires additional CIITA-independent factor(s), and such factor(s) can be induced by interferon gamma.

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