Proteasome - Role in The Immune System

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Role in The Immune System

The proteasome plays a straightforward but critical role in the function of the adaptive immune system. Peptide antigens are displayed by the major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC) proteins on the surface of antigen-presenting cells. These peptides are products of proteasomal degradation of proteins originated by the invading pathogen. Although constitutively expressed proteasomes can participate in this process, a specialized complex composed of proteins whose expression is induced by interferon gamma produces peptides of the optimal size and composition for MHC binding. These proteins whose expression increases during the immune response include the 11S regulatory particle, whose main known biological role is regulating the production of MHC ligands, and specialized β subunits called β1i, β2i, and β5i with altered substrate specificity. The complex formed with the specialized β subunits is known as the immunoproteasome. Another β5i variant subunit, β5t, is expressed in the thymus, leading to a thymus-specific "thymoproteasome" whose function is as yet unclear.

The strength of MHC class I ligand binding is dependent on the composition of the ligand C-terminus, as peptides bind by hydrogen bonding and by close contacts with a region called the "B pocket" on the MHC surface. Many MHC class I alleles prefer hydrophobic C-terminal residues, and the immunoproteasome complex is more likely to generate hydrophobic C-termini.

Due to its role in generating the activated form of NF-κB, an anti-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory regulator of cytokine expression, proteasomal activity has been linked to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Increased levels of proteasome activity correlate with disease activity and have been implicated in autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The proteasome is also involved in Intracellular antibody-mediated proteolysis of antibody bound virions. In this neutralisation pathway, TRIM21 (a protein of the tripartite motif family) binds with immunoglobulin G to direct the virion to the proteasome where it is degraded.

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