Interferon-gamma modulates HLA class II antigen expression on cultured human thymic epithelial cells.J Immunol. 1985 Aug; 135(2):1165-71.JI
Cultures of human thymic epithelial cells (TEC) were tested for the expression of HLA class I (A, B, C) and class II (DR and DC) antigens by indirect immunofluorescence. The epithelial nature of the cells was proven by using an antikeratin antiserum. A high level of expression (close to 100% positive cells) of HLA class I antigens was observed on TEC at the beginning of the culture and remained unchanged for up to 12 days. In contrast, HLA class II antigen expression (85% DR+ and 75% DC+ cells on day 2) decreased gradually and reached very low levels (less than 5% DR+ or DC+) by day 7 of culture. This loss of class II antigen expression was not seen when cultures were performed in the presence of supernatants from activated T cells containing interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). Furthermore, the presence of recombinant IFN-gamma (rIFN-gamma) in the medium from the onset of culture maintained HLA-DR and DC antigen expression on a high number of cells (comparable to that observed on day 2 of culture). A large percentage of rIFN-gamma-treated cells also showed intracytoplasmic HLA-DR antigen expression. Addition of rIFN-gamma at various times after the onset of the culture led to a reinduction of DR and DC antigen expression. This effect of rIFN-gamma was observed in 48 hr with concentrations as low as 10 IU/ml and was apparently specific for this IFN species, in that rIFN-alpha was unable to modify HLA class II antigen expression at concentrations up to 1000 IU/ml. The increased expression of HLA class II antigen was truly due to induction in individual TEC, rather than selection of class II-positive cells, because induction under the influence of IFN-gamma was reversible and occurred in the absence of proliferation in mitomycin-treated or gamma-irradiated cultures. Our results indicate that synthesis and membrane expression of class II HLA antigens are enhanced by IFN-gamma in TEC cultures. This finding raises the possibility that IFN-gamma participates in the mechanisms that assure the permanent expression of DR and DC antigens observed in TEC in vivo, with potentially important functional consequences in terms of education for self recognition.