Receptor-mediated antigen delivery into macrophages. Complexing antigen to alpha 2-macroglobulin enhances presentation to T cells.
Macrophages secrete alpha 2-macroglobulin (alpha 2M), a protein that may facilitate early Ag handling. alpha 2M is able to entrap and form covalent linkages with diverse proteins during a transient proteinase-activated state. The resulting complexes are rapidly endocytosed after binding to high affinity receptors. Such a system could be capable of efficiently delivering a multitude of proteins to macrophages. We have used T hybridoma clones that respond only to hen egg lysozyme, in a MHC-restricted manner, to probe the effect of complex formation on Ag uptake and processing by murine macrophages. Radiolabeled lysozyme was internalized more rapidly and to a greater extent when bound to alpha 2M than when unbound. Macrophages pulsed with lysozyme-alpha 2M-elastase complexes required 200 to 250 times less Ag than those pulsed with free lysozyme to achieve effective presentation to T cells. Adding equimolar amounts of alpha 2M-elastase complexes, or of alpha 2M-methylamine, to free lysozyme had no effect on basal lysozyme presentation. Receptor-recognized forms of alpha 2M, but not lysozyme or BSA, competed effectively for both uptake and presentation of lysozyme-alpha 2M-elastase complexes. These results indicate that proteinase-activated alpha 2M can enhance Ag processing by carrying Ag into macrophages through a receptor-mediated process.
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