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Int J Cancer. 1995 Jul 4;62(1):90-6.

Mechanisms of allele-selective down-regulation of HLA class I in Burkitt's lymphoma.

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  • 1Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Burkitt lymphomas (BL) that arise in HLA-AII-positive individuals are characterized by selective loss/down-regulation of the HLA AII polypeptide. We have investigated the molecular basis of such down-regulation by comparing 5 pairs of BL lines and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) derived from the normal B cells of the same individuals. The presence of apparently intact HLA AII genes was confirmed in all 5 BL/LCL pairs by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) typing and by Southern-blot hybridization with HLA A locus-specific probes. Northern-blot analysis with locus- and allele-specific probes revealed a significantly lower expression or absence of AII-specific mRNA in all 5 BL lines compared to the corresponding LCLs. Up-regulation of AII-specific mRNA was achieved by IFN alpha treatment of 2 BL lines with low HLA AII expression (BL-28 and BL-72) while the treatment had no effect in 3 BL lines (WWI-BL, WW2-BL and BL41) that did not express the endogenous gene. HLA AII expression was restored by transfection of the gene in WWI-BL whereas transfectants of BL-41 remained AII-negative. An HLA-AII-promoter-driven chloramphenicol acetyl transferase reporter gene (pAIICAT) was active in WWI-BL but not in BL-41. HLA-AII was expressed in hybrids of BL-41 with an AII-positive LCL, while expression of the endogenous HLA AII gene could not be restored by fusion of BL-41 with an AII-negative LCL, although an adequate set of transcription factors was present in the hybrid. Our results suggest that genetic defects and lack of transcription factors may contribute to the selective down-regulation of HLA AII in BL cells.

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