Major histocompatibility complex II (MHC II) molecules are involved in antigen presentation and the development of a functional adaptive immune response. Evolutionary selection for MHC molecules that effectively clear infectious agents provides an advantage to humans. However, certain class II molecules are associated with autoimmune diseases. In this study we infected autoimmune-susceptible DRB1*0401.AEo and non-susceptible *0402.AEo mice with H1N1 influenza and determined clearance and protective immunity to H3N2 virus. *0401 mice generated a robust TLR-triggered immune response and cleared H1N1 influenza virus infection. After vaccination and challenge with H1N1, *0401 mice, when challenged with H3N2, generated cross-protective immunity to heterosubtypic H3N2 influenza strain whereas *0402 mice cleared the H1N1 infection but did not generate cross-protective immunity against the H3N2 influenza strain. The intracellular trafficking route of MHCII revealed that *0401 molecules traffic through the late endosome/lysosomes while *0402 molecules traffic into early endosomes. This suggested that trafficking of MHCII could affect the functional output of the innate immune response and clearance of viral infections. Also, DRB1*0401 mice live longer than HLA-DRB1*0402 mice. The study provides a potential hypothesis for evolutionary selection of *0401 molecule, even though it is associated with autoreactivity, which may be dependent on the availability of peptide repertoire of self-antigens.
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