The modulation of MHC class I molecule expression on the surface of cells as a consequence of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) infection has been examined. On cells infected with FMDV, class I expression was reduced to approximately 70% of the initial value 3 h after the infection and to 53% after 6 h. On cells depleted of surface class I complexes by acid treatment, the appearance of newly assembled class I-peptide complexes on the cell surface of non-infected cells increased immediately upon neutralization and original class I levels were recovered in about 20 h. In contrast, the appearance of new peptide-bound class I molecules on the cell surface was inhibited as early as 30 min after FMDV infection. Since the shut-down of FMDV-mediated host protein synthesis occurs approximately 2-3 h post-infection, this result suggests that an earlier event, which prevents the surface expression of newly synthesized complexes, is induced following FMDV infection. Thus, FMDV-infected cells rapidly become unable to present viral peptides in association with MHC class I molecules to T lymphocytes. Such a mechanism would assist virus evasion of the cytotoxic immune response of the host.


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