HLA class II expression in uninducible hepatocarcinoma cells after transfection of AIR-1 gene product CIITA: acquisition of antigen processing and presentation capacity.J Immunol. 1998 Jul 15; 161(2):814-20.JI
The AIR-1-encoded CIITA transcriptional activator is crucial for both constitutive and IFN-gamma-induced MHC class II gene transcription. We show here that the MHC class II negative phenotype of the human hepatocarcinoma cell lines Alexander and HepG2 remains unmodified after treatment with IFN-gamma, although MHC class I expression is up-modulated. This correlates with absence of CIITA mature transcripts. Transfection of an expressible CIITA cDNA in Alexander cells resulted in a very high cell surface expression of all three human class II subsets, HLA-DR, -DP and -DQ, indicating that normally observed induction of CIITA expression by IFN-gamma is probably blocked, in the hepatocarcinoma cell lines, at the level of CIITA transcription and not at the level of IFN-gamma receptor binding and signal transduction mechanisms. To assess whether MHC class II expression on CIITA-transfected Alexander cells could have functional relevance, we tested their capacity to present antigenic peptides to an HLA-DR-restricted T cell line specific for a peptide of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Ag85 protein. It was found that the transfected cells could not only present the exogenously supplemented peptide but also process Ag85 protein to generate the specific epitope recognized by the HLA-DR-restricted T cell line. Similar results were obtained with CIITA-transfected CFPAC-1 pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells, which differed from Alexander cells in that they were inducible by IFN-gamma. These results suggest new strategies to act on CIITA for increasing the potential of a tumor cell to present putative tumor Ags to the immune system.