It has long been the paradigm that T cells recognize peptide antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. However, nonpeptide antigens can be presented to T cells by human CD1b molecules, which are not encoded by the MHC. A major class of microbial antigens associated with pathogenicity are lipoglycans. It is shown here that human CD1b presents the defined mycobacterial lipoglycan lipoarabinomannan (LAM) to αβ T cell receptor-bearing lymphocytes. Presentation of these lipoglycan antigens required internalization and endosomal acidification. The T cell recognition required mannosides with α(1→2) linkages and a phosphatidylinositol unit. T cells activated by LAM produced interferon γ and were cytolytic. Thus, an important class of microbial molecules, the lipoglycans, is a part of the universe of foreign antigens recognized by human T cells.
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