The MHC class II-associated invariant chain (Ii) is involved in the intracellular sorting of class II molecules to the endocytic pathway where peptides from processed exogenous antigens are bound, and thereby Ii is thought to enhance antigen presentation. Here we demonstrate that presentation of only one out of five epitopes of a given antigen is augmented by Ii. We have compared the presentation of five different epitopes derived from hen egg white lysozyme (HEL) to Ak-restricted T hybridomas by rat-2 fibroblasts transfected with A alpha k and A beta k (RKK) and RKK cells supertransfected with the mouse invariant chain (RKKI). Only the presentation of the HEL epitope 46-61 was enhanced whereas the presentation of the HEL epitopes 25-43, 34-45, 112-124, and 116-129 was unchanged or even slightly diminished in RKKI cells. The presentation of the epitopes 25-43 and 34-45 was virtually insensitive to the lysosomotropic reagent chloroquine. Brefeldin A (BFA), which inhibits protein egress from the endoplasmic reticulum, blocked the presentation of all epitopes tested in RKKI cells. In contrast, in Ii-negative RKK cells only the presentation of the epitope HEL(46-61) was inhibited by BFA and the presentation of the epitopes 25-43 and 34-45 was only slightly impaired. These findings suggest that Ii may target class II molecules to selected endosomal subcompartments involved in the processing of different peptides derived from an endocytosed antigen. As a result, the enhancement of the class II-restricted presentation in Ii expressing cells appears to be epitope specific rather than antigen specific.

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