Antigen-presenting cells survey their environment and present captured antigens bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Formation of MHC-antigen complexes occurs in specialized compartments where multiple protein trafficking routes, still incompletely understood, converge. Autophagy is a route that enables the presentation of cytosolic antigen by MHC class II molecules. Some reports also implicate autophagy in the presentation of extracellular, endocytosed antigen by MHC class I molecules, a pathway termed “cross-presentation.” The role of autophagy in cross-presentation is controversial. This may be due to studies using different types of antigen presenting cells for which the use of autophagy is not well defined. Here we report that active use of autophagy is evident only in DC subtypes specialized in cross-presentation. However, the contribution of autophagy to cross-presentation varied depending on the form of antigen: it was negligible in the case of cell-associated antigen or antigen delivered via receptor-mediated endocytosis, but more prominent when the antigen was a soluble protein. These findings highlight the differential use of autophagy and its machinery by primary cells equipped with specific immune function, and prompt careful reassessment of the participation of this endocytic pathway in antigen cross-presentation.
- Antigen presentation
- Dendritic cells