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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2004 Aug;287(2):L318-31.

Accessory cell function of airway epithelial cells.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.


Accessory cell function of airway epithelial cells. We previously demonstrated that airway epithelial cells (AECs) have many features of accessory cells, including expression of class II molecules CD80 and CD86 and functional Fcgamma receptors. We have extended these studies to show that freshly isolated AECs have mRNA for cathepsins S, V, and H [proteases important in antigen (Ag) presentation], invariant chain, human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DM-alpha and HLA-DM-beta, and CLIP, an invariant chain breakdown product. A physiologically relevant Ag, ragweed, was colocalized with HLA-DR in AECs, and its uptake was increased by granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and IFN-gamma treatments, which had no effect on CD80 and CD86 expression. We demonstrate the presence of other costimulatory molecules, including B7h and B7-H1, on AECs and the increased expression of B7-H1 on AECs after treatment with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and IFN-gamma. Finally, we compared T cell proliferation after allostimulation with AECs and dendritic cells (DCs). The precursor frequency of peripheral blood T cells responding to AECs was 0.264% compared with 0.55% for DCs. DCs stimulated CD45RO(+), CD45RA(+), CCR7(+) and CCR7(-)CD4(+), and CD8(+) T cells, whereas AECs stimulated only CD45RO(+), CD45RA(-), CCR7(-), CD4(+), and CD8(+) T cells. There was no difference in cytokine production, type of memory T cells stimulated (effector vs. long-term memory), or apoptosis by T cells cocultured with AECs and DCs. The localization of AECs exposed to the external environment may make them important in the regulation of local immune responses.

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