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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1999 Sep;21(3):365-79.

Antigen trafficking and accessory cell function in respiratory epithelial cells.

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Divisions of Clinical Immunology and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, New York, USA.


We investigated accessory cell function, antigen (Ag) trafficking, and uptake of immune complexes in isolated nasal epithelial cells (NEC) and airway epithelial cells (AEC), as well as in the two respiratory epithelial cell lines A549 and BEAS-2B. The NEC and AEC were capable of supporting Ag-specific as well as phytohemagglutinin-induced and anti-CD3 antibody-induced T-cell proliferation. We colocalized fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled Ags with human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR in A549 and BEAS-2B, utilizing laser confocal microscopy. Respiratory epithelial cells stimulated and unstimulated with interferon (IFN)-gamma were pulsed with FITC-labeled Ags for varying periods and evaluated for their ability to internalize Ag. In the unstimulated cells, intracellular punctate staining was evident at 60 min and persisted up to 120 min. In the IFN-gamma-stimulated cells (100 U/ml for 48 h), uptake occurred at 30 min, was maximal at 60 min, and diminished at 120 min. We conducted kinetic studies in the A549 and BEAS-2B cells, utilizing electron microscopy with colloidal gold-conjugated Ags (Au-OVA). At 15 min, Au-OVA was evident in the early compartments resembling the compartment of uncoupling of receptor and ligand. At 30 min, multivesicular bodies were labeled with Au-OVA, and by 60 min Au-OVA was present in the primary and secondary lysosomes. The FITC-labeled Ags colocalized with an early endosomal marker (anti-cathepsin D), a late endosomal marker (M6PR), a lysosomal marker (CD63), and with 3-(2, 4-dinitroanilino)-3'-aminomethyldipropylamine, a marker of acidic vesicles. The BEAS-2B and A549 cells, and NEC and AEC, expressed surface Fcgamma receptor and internalized IgG immune complexes. The NEC and AEC also expressed the costimulatory molecules CD80 and CD86 as determined with flow cytometry, the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction for RNA, and immunohistochemistry, and T-cell proliferation could be blocked by treating NEC and AEC with anti-CD80 and anti-CD86 antibodies. Our findings suggest that respiratory epithelial cells may have a role in local Ag presentation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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