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Circ Res. 2006 Mar 3;98(4):472-9. Epub 2006 Jan 26.

Interferon-gamma induces major histocompatibility class II transactivator (CIITA), which mediates collagen repression and major histocompatibility class II activation by human aortic smooth muscle cells.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Chronic inflammation in atherosclerosis is responsible for plaque instability through alterations in extracellular matrix. Previously, we demonstrated that major histocompatibility class II (MHC II) transactivator (CIITA) in a complex with regulatory factor for X box 5 (RFX5) is a crucial protein mediating interferon (IFN)-gamma-induced repression of collagen type I gene transcription in fibroblasts. This article demonstrates that, in smooth muscle cells (SMCs), IFN-gamma dramatically increases the expression of CIITA isoforms III and IV, with no increase in expression of CIITA isoform I. Expression of CIITA III and IV correlates with decreased collagen type I and increased MHC II gene expression. Exogenous expression of CIITA I, III, and IV, in transiently transfected SMCs, represses collagen type I promoters (COL1A1 and COL1A2) and activates MHC II promoter. Levels of CIITA and RFX5 increase in the nucleus of cells treated with IFN-gamma. Moreover, simvastatin lowers the IFN-gamma-induced expression of RFX5 and MHC II in addition to repressing collagen expression. However, simvastatin does not block the IFN-gamma-induced expression of CIITA III and IV, suggesting a CIITA-independent mechanism. This first demonstration that RFX5 and CIITA isoforms are expressed in SMCs after IFN-gamma stimulation suggest that CIITA could be a key factor in plaque stability in atherosclerosis.

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