The handling of Listeria monocytogenes by macrophages: The search for an immunogenic molecule in antigen presentation

P. M. Allen, D. I. Beller, J. Braun, E. R. Unanue

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43 Scopus citations


The activation of T lymphocytes for immunity to the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes requires that Ia-positive macrophages ingest the bacteria. The subsequent handling of Listeria by macrophages was examined in this report and related to antigen presentation to T cells. Macrophages pulsed with radiolabeled Listeria, besides releasing acid-soluble radioactivity - an indication of extensive catabolism of the Listeria-derived proteins - were also found to release acid-insoluble peptides. The rate of release of the peptides was not markedly affected by treatment with chloroquine, ammonia, or monensin and was independent of the state of activation and the level of Ia expression of the macrophage. The peptides were not associated with fragments of membranes and were represented by several molecular species. Listeria-derived peptides were also found associated with the macrophage plasma membrane. The membrane-associated peptides behaved like integral membrane proteins and could be released by proteases or detergents. Their expression was independent of the dose of Listeria and the level of Ia expression of the macrophage, and their presence could not be inhibited by protease inhibitors or chloroquine. The Listeria peptides released by the macrophages were very weakly immunogenic in a T cell proliferation assay. Purified plasma membranes from Listeria-pulsed macrophages, which contained membrane-associated Listeria peptides, were not immunogenic by themselves but could be reprocessed by additional macrophages to subsequently stimulate T cells. Trypsin treatment of Listeria-pulsed macrophages did not cause a significant reduction in their ability to stimulate T cells. No association was found between Ia molecules and either the membrane-associated or the released peptides with the use of several technical approaches. Hence, after internalization of Listeria, potentially immunogenic material can be found at the cell surface as well as in the culture fluid. The release of soluble peptides is a clear indication that proteins can be recycled after their internalization in vesicles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984


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