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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1990 Nov;3(5):431-9.

Human ciliated bronchial epithelial cells: expression of the HLA-DR antigens and of the HLA-DR alpha gene, modulation of the HLA-DR antigens by gamma-interferon and antigen-presenting function in the mixed leukocyte reaction.

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  • 1I. Divisione di Pneumologia, Ospedale San Martino, Genoa, Italy.


HLA-DR class II molecules are expressed by a variety of nonlymphoid cells, including the respiratory epithelium. However, it is not known if ciliated bronchial epithelial cells express the HLA-DR genes, if the expression of class II molecules on their surface can be modulated by immune mediators and, finally, if these cells, like other HLA-DR-positive epithelial cells, have the potential to serve as antigen-presenting cells. To answer these questions, we collected ciliated bronchial epithelial cells by brushing and by suction during fiberoptic bronchoscopy and by scraping surgically resected bronchi. The number of cells recovered by brushing or suction during fiberoptic bronchoscopy was similar (P greater than 0.2), but lower than that obtained by scraping surgically resected bronchi (P less than 0.01); however, compared with brushing, suction of ciliated bronchial epithelial cells resulted in a better viability (P less than 0.05). HLA-DR antigens on ciliated bronchial epithelial cells were detected by immunofluorescence using the PTF 29.12 and the L243 monoclonal antibodies, both recognizing HLA-DR molecules on the vast majority of ciliated bronchial epithelial cells. Cytoplasmic dot blot analysis demonstrated that ciliated bronchial epithelial cells had mRNA HLA-DR transcripts, and Northern blot hybridizations showed that the size of the HLA-DR messages was the same observed in other HLA-DR-positive cells. Interestingly, ciliated bronchial epithelial cells showed a significant decline of HLA-DR expression after 5 days in culture, but the addition of gamma-interferon to the cell cultures was associated with the persistence of the expression of class II antigens on the cell surface (P less than 0.01 with control cultures at 5 days). Finally, while ciliated bronchial epithelial cells were ineffective in stimulating allogeneic T cell proliferation in a 6-day primary mixed leukocyte reaction (MLR), the addition of phorbol myristate acetate to the MLR was able to induce a significant T cell proliferation (P less than 0.001, all comparisons). Thus, human ciliated bronchial epithelial cells express HLA-DR surface antigens and have mRNA molecules for the HLA-DR genes, and the expression of the surface class II antigens can be modulated in vitro by immune mediators.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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