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The proteasome is responsible for the breakdown of cellular proteins. Proteins targeted for degradation are allowed inside the proteasome particle, where they are cleaved into small peptides and released in the cytosol to be degraded into amino acids. In vertebrates, some of these peptides escape degradation in the cytosol, are loaded onto class I molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and displayed at the cell surface for scrutiny by the immune system. The proteasome therefore plays a key role for the immune system: it provides a continued sampling of intracellular proteins, so that CD8-positive T-lymphocytes can kill cells expressing viral or tumoral proteins. Consequently, the repertoire of peptides displayed by MHC class I molecules at the cell surface depends on proteasome activity, which may vary according to the presence of proteasome subtypes and regulators. Besides standard proteasomes, cells may contain immunoproteasomes, intermediate proteasomes and thymoproteasomes. Cells may also contain regulators of proteasome activity, such as the 19S, PA28 and PA200 regulators. Here, we review the effects of these proteasome subtypes and regulators on the production of antigenic peptides. We also discuss an unexpected function of the proteasome discovered through the study of antigenic peptides: its ability to splice peptides.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





994 - 1025


Animals, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Humans, Mice, Muscle Proteins, Nuclear Proteins, Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex, Thymus Gland