Although reported examples of endogenous antigen (Ag) presentation by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules have increased, the mechanisms governing this process remain poorly defined. In this communication, we describe an experimental system designed to examine the mechanisms governing class II presentation of internal Ag. Our target peptide is processed from a transmembrane protein constitutively expressed by a variety of nucleated cells (MHC class I, H-2Ld), is naturally displayed by MHC class II molecules in vivo, and is recognized by a class II-restricted, CD4+ T cell hybridoma. Our results indicate that presentation of the Ld target Ag is independent of its plasma membrane expression, may not involve endosomal proteolysis, and thus may be distinct from the classically defined class II presentation pathway. In addition, the observations that Ld presentation does not require a functional TAP-1 complex, is not blocked by invariant chain, and cannot utilize cytoplasmic forms of H-2Ld, suggest that a classical class I pathway is not involved in this presentation event. Finally, our data suggest that different cofactors participate in MHC class II presentation of exogenous and endogenous Ag, and that disparate Ag presenting cells, such as B, T, and pancreatic islet cells, may differentially express these two class II pathways of Ag presentation.

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