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Keywords:

  • Antigen presentation;
  • TAP independence;
  • Epstein-Barr virus;
  • Membrane protein

Abstract

Antigen presentation to CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) usually involves proteolytic cleavage of antigen in the cytosol and the delivery of epitope peptides onto major histocompatibility complex class I molecules in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) via the heterodimeric peptide transporter TAP1/TAP2. In the few exceptional cases where TAP-independent presentation of an endogenously expressed protein has been observed, the epitope-containing domain of the protein either has naturally accessed or has been directed into the ER lumen where it is thought to become susceptible to ER proteases. Here, we describe a novel example of TAP-independent processing involving the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latent membrane protein LMP2, a multiple membrane-spanning protein with minimal projection into the ER. Expression of LMP2 in the TAP T2 cell line, whether from the resident EBV genome or from a recombinant vaccinia virus vector vacc-LMP2, rendered the cells sensitive to recognition by CTL clones specific for two HLA-A2.1-restricted peptide epitopes, LMP2 329–337 or 426–434. Vacc-LMP2-mediated sensitization to lysis required expression of the antigen de novo in T2 cells and was blocked by brefeldin A. In the same experiments, two other EBV-specific CTL epitopes, one derived from LMP2 but restricted through a different HLA allele (A11), the other restricted through A2.1 but derived from a different viral protein (BMLF1), did not display TAP-independent processing. The results are discussed in relation to the unusual topology of LMP2 in the membrane and the position of the epitope peptides within that structure.