Presentation of antigenic peptides by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules requires MHC-encoded molecules of the adenosine triphosphate binding cassette (ABC) family. Defects in these proteins represent a potential risk, since they are essential links in the machinery of T cell-mediated surveillance which continuously scrutinizes peptide samples of cellular proteins. Nevertheless, transfection of the mouse lymphoma mutant RMA-S with the rat ABC gene mtp2a (homologue to mouse HAM2 and human RING11), commonly termed TAP-2 genes, led to a marked increase in tumor outgrowth potential in vivo. This occurred despite restored antigen presentation and sensitivity to cytotoxic T lymphocytes, and was found to be due to escape from natural killer (NK) cell-mediated rejection. It has previously been proposed that adequate expression of self-MHC class I is one important mechanism to avoid elimination by NK cells. Our data argue that a defect in the machinery responsible for processing and loading of peptides into MHC class I molecules is sufficient to render cells sensitive to elimination by NK cells. The latter thus appear to function as a surveillance of the peptide surveillance machinery.

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