Heat shock protein 90 (hsp90) and the proteasome activator PA28 stimulate major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen processing. It is unknown whether hsp90 influences the proteasome activity to produce T cell epitopes, although association of PA28 with the 20 S proteasome stimulates the enzyme activity. Here, we show that hsp90 is essential in assembly of the 26 S proteasome and as a result, is involved in epitope production. Addition of recombinant hsp90α to cell lysate enhanced chymotrypsin-like activity of the 26 S proteasome in an ATP-dependent manner as determined by an in-gel hydrolysis assay. We successfully pulled down histidine-tagged hsp90α- and PA28α-induced, newly assembled 26 S proteasomes from the cell extracts for in vitro epitope production assay, and we found these structures to be sensitive to geldanamycin, an hsp90 inhibitor. We found a cleaved epitope unique to the proteasome pulled down by both hsp90α and PA28α, whereas two different epitopes were identified in the hsp90α- and PA28α-pulldowns, respectively. Processing of these respective peptides in vivo was enhanced faithfully by the protein combinations used for the proteasome pulldowns. Inhibition of hsp90 in vivo by geldanamycin partly disrupted the 26 S proteasome structure, consistent with down-regulated MHC class I expression. Our results indicate that hsp90 facilitates MHC class I antigen processing through epitope production in a complex of the 26 S proteasome
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