Regulation of the antigen presentation machinery in cancer and its implication for immune surveillance

Adithya Balasubramanian, Thomas John, Marie Liesse Asselin-Labat

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Evading immune destruction is one of the hallmarks of cancer. A key mechanism of immune evasion deployed by tumour cells is to reduce neoantigen presentation through down-regulation of the antigen presentation machinery. MHC-I and MHC-II proteins are key components of the antigen presentation machinery responsible for neoantigen presentation to CD8+ and CD4+ T lymphocytes, respectively. Their expression in tumour cells is modulated by a complex interplay of genomic, transcriptomic and post translational factors involving multiple intracellular antigen processing pathways. Ongoing research investigates mechanisms invoked by cancer cells to abrogate MHC-I expression and attenuate anti-tumour CD8+ cytotoxic T cell response. The discovery of MHC-II on tumour cells has been less characterized. However, this finding has triggered further interest in utilising tumour-specific MHC-II to harness sustained anti-tumour immunity through the activation of CD4+ T helper cells. Tumour-specific expression of MHC-I and MHC-II has been associated with improved patient survival in most clinical studies. Thus, their reactivation represents an attractive way to unleash anti-tumour immunity. This review provides a comprehensive overview of physiologically conserved or novel mechanisms utilised by tumour cells to reduce MHC-I or MHC-II expression. It outlines current approaches employed at the preclinical and clinical trial interface towards reversing these processes in order to improve response to immunotherapy and survival outcomes for patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-837
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Society transactions
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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