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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 May;86(10):3782-6.

Expression in transgenic mice of class I histocompatibility antigens controlled by the metallothionein promoter.

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  • 1Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Victoria, Australia.


To study the effects of increased expression of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules on the development of self-tolerance, transgenic mice were produced that expressed the H-2Kb gene under the control of the metallothionein promoter. Administration of zinc enhanced transgene expression in liver, kidney and exocrine pancreas. No evidence suggestive of an autoimmune response was found in transgene-expressing tissues in mice otherwise allogeneic to H-2Kb. Despite this lack of responsiveness in vivo, T cells could be stimulated in vitro to lyse H-2Kb-bearing target cells. No infiltration was detected in transgenic mice after irradiation and reconstitution with bone marrow cells. When spleen cells were used for reconstitution, however, dense lymphocytic infiltration was seen, particularly in the portal tracts of the liver, and this was accompanied by piecemeal necrosis and apoptosis of periportal hepatocytes. This aggressive response progressively diminished with time, and by 12 weeks after reconstitution many of the portal tracts were free of infiltration while the others showed no accompanying necrosis. The picture at this stage was similar to that seen in chronic persistent hepatitis. These results suggest that, in addition to negative selection in the thymus, peripheral mechanisms not involving clonal deletion or permanent clonal anergy can prevent immune responses to self molecules.

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