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Blood. 2006 Feb 15;107(4):1434-44. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

MHC class II expression through a hitherto unknown pathway supports T helper cell-dependent immune responses: implications for MHC class II deficiency.

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  • 1Institut für Umweltmedizinische Forschung gGmbH, Heinrich-Heine University, Auf'm Hennekamp 50, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


MHC class II (MHCII) deficiency or bare lymphocyte syndrome (BLS) is a severe immunodeficiency characterized by deficient T helper (Th)-cell-dependent immunity. The disease is caused by defects of the MHCII promoter complex resulting in low or absent MHCII expression. We demonstrate in a murine model of MHCII deficiency (RFX5- or CIITA-deficient mice) that residual MHCII expression by professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs) is sufficient to support activation of adoptively transferred Th cells. Furthermore, upon transplantation of WT thymic epithelium, we observed development of endogenous Th cells with restoration of Th-cell-dependent antibody responses and immunity to cytomegalovirus infection, thus opening the possibility of an alternative treatment regimen for BLS. Residual MHCII expression was further induced by the presence of Th cells and also other stimuli. Analysis of CIITA/RFX5 double-deficient animals revealed that this inducible MHCII expression is genetically independent of the known promoter complex and thus constitutes an alternative MHCII expression pathway. In these experiments, we also detected a novel repressive function of the RFX complex in the absence of CIITA.

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