There are two immune responses in vertebrates: humoral immunity is mediated by circulating antibodies, whereas cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) confer cellular immunity. CTL lyse infected cells upon recognition of cell-surface MHC Class I molecules complexed with foreign peptides. The displayed peptides are produced in the cytosol by degradation of host proteins or proteins from intracellular pathogens that might be present. Proteasomes are cylindrical multisubunit proteases that generate many of the peptides eventually transferred to the cell surface for immune surveillance. In mammalian proteasomes, six active sites face a central chamber. As this chamber is sealed off from the enzyme's surface, there must be mechanisms to promote entry of substrates. Two protein complexes have been found to bind the ends of the proteasome and activate it. One of the activators is the 19 S regulatory complex of the 26 S proteasome; the other activator is ‘11 S REG’ [Dubiel, Pratt, Ferrell and Rechsteiner (1992) J. Biol. Chem. 267, 22369-22377] or ‘PA28’ [Ma, Slaughter and DeMartino (1992) J. Biol. Chem. 267, 10515-10523]. During the past 7 years, our understanding of the structure of REG molecules has increased significantly, but much less is known about their biological functions. There are three REG subunits, namely α, β and γ. Recombinant REGα forms a ring-shaped heptamer of known crystal structure. 11 S REG is a heteroheptamer of α and β subunits. REGγ is also presumably a heptameric ring, and it is found in the nuclei of the nematode work Caenorhabditis elegans and higher organisms, where it may couple proteasomes to other nuclear components. REGα and REGβ, which are abundant in vertebrate immune tissues, are located mostly in the cytoplasm. Synthesis of REG α and β subunits is induced by interferon-γ, and this has led to the prevalent hypothesis that REG α/β hetero-oligomers play an important role in Class I antigen presentation. In the present review we focus on the structural properties of REG molecules and on the evidence that REGα/β functions in the Class I immune response.
- cellular immunity, 26S proteasome
- protein degradation
- ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis
- The Biochemical Society, London © 2000