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Summary

CD4+ T cells co-ordinate adaptive immunity and are required for immunological memory establishment and maintenance. They are thought to primarily recognize extracellular antigens, which are endocytosed, processed by lysosomal proteases and then presented on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II. However, recent studies have demonstrated that viral, tumour and autoantigens can gain access to this antigen presentation pathway from within cells by autophagy. This review will discuss the autophagic pathways that contribute to endogenous MHC class II antigen processing. Furthermore, potential characteristics of autophagy substrates, qualifying them to access these pathways, and regulation of autophagy will be considered. Finally, I will suggest how antigen presentation after autophagy might contribute to immune surveillance of infected and transformed cells.