The maturation of invariant chain (Ii):MHC class II complexes into peptide-loaded alpha beta dimers occurs by proteolytic removal of Ii chain and binding of antigenic peptides derived from exogenous and endogenous Ags. A fragment of the Ii chain (class II-associated invariant chain peptide (CLIP) remains associated with class II alpha beta and is an intermediate in this process. Conversion of alpha beta:CLIP complexes into alpha beta:peptide complexes is facilitated by HLA-DM. Two unique mAbs, specific for I-Ab bound to human CLIP and I-Ab bound to DR alpha peptide, were used to assess the formation of these peptide:class II complexes in a human B lymphoblastoid cell line (B-LCL) (Swei) transfected with I-A(b). In multiple independent Swei:I-Ab transfectants, the amount of human CLIP (hCLIP):I-Ab expressed was inversely proportional to the amount of DR alpha 52-68:I-Ab; quantitative differences in HLA-DM expression accounted for this phenotype. In the low DM transfectant, a substantial proportion of I-Ab, but not DR molecules, was altered structurally and unable to present native protein Ags. Addition of DM transgenes to the DM-low cells resulted in an increase in DR alpha 52-68:I-Ab coupled with a decrease in hCLIP:I-Ab complexes and restoration of exogenous protein Ag presentation. The DR5 molecules in Swei cells, which have a lower affinity for hCLIP than I-Ab, were not affected by low DM expression, suggesting that the amount of DM required for conversion of CLIP:class II to peptide:class II may depend on the affinity of the class II molecules for CLIP or DM.

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