Formation of complexes between self-peptides and MHC class II molecules in cells defective for presentation of exogenous protein antigens.
A vertebrate immune response is initiated by the presentation of foreign protein Ag to MHC class II-restricted T lymphocytes by specialized APC. Presentation of self-peptides in association with MHC class II molecules is also necessary for the induction of T cell tolerance. It is important to understand whether functionally divergent APC are responsible for delivering these distinct signals to class II-restricted T cells. Here we examine the ability of I-Ad surface molecules expressed in diverse cell types to stimulate I-Ad-restricted T cells. Recipients included J558L myeloma cells and EL4 lymphoma cells expressing barely detectable or undetectable levels of Ii chain mRNA. This allowed us to examine the influence of Ii expression on the presentation of intracellular Ag and thus test the hypothesis that Ii chain is necessary to prevent access of self-peptides to newly synthesized class II molecules. Ii chain expression did not restore the ability of transformants to process and present soluble protein Ag. A striking result was the finding that cells showing a defect in the exogenous class II presentation pathway were capable of functioning as stimulators when they expressed intracellular secreted but not signal-less V-CH3b Ag. Thus, so-called professional APC that can capture and process exogenous protein Ag may express a specialized set of proteins not required for the presentation of self-peptides.