Dendritic cells (DCs) present exogenous protein-derived peptides on major histocompatibility complex class I molecules to prime naïve CD8+
T cells. This DC specific ability, called cross-presentation (CP), is important for the activation of cell-mediated immunity and the induction of self-tolerance. Recent research revealed that endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD), which was first identified as a part of the unfolded protein response—a quality control system in the ER—plays a pivotal role in the processing of exogenous proteins in CP. Moreover, DCs express a variety of immuno-modulatory molecules and cytokines to regulate T cell activation in response to the environment. Although both CP and immuno-modulation are indispensable, contrasting ER conditions are required for their correct activity. Since ERAD substrates are unfolded proteins, their accumulation may result in ER stress, impaired cell homeostasis, and eventually apoptosis. In contrast, activation of the unfolded protein response should be inhibited for DCs to express immuno-modulatory molecules and cytokines. Here, we review recent advances on antigen CP, focusing on intracellular transport routes for exogenous antigens and distinctive subcellular compartments involved in ERAD.
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