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Nature. 1984 Apr 12-18;308(5960):642-5.

Beta 2-microglobulin from serum associates with MHC class I antigens on the surface of cultured cells.


Beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2-m) is a highly conserved polypeptide (12,000 molecular weight; 12K) noncovalently associated with the heavy chain (45-48K) of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigens. Its synthesis is required for expression of the HLA-A/B and H-2K/D heavy chains at the cell surface; beta 2-m is also associated with the human cell-surface antigens T6 and M241 isolated from thymocytes. However, on the T leukaemic cell line MOLT-4 some of the T6 antigens contain a different 12K subunit, termed beta t (refs 3, 7, 8). Purified human beta 2-m can exchange partially both with human beta 2-m associated with HLA-antigens, and with mouse beta 2-m associated with murine alloantigens. As MOLT-4 cells were grown in the presence of fetal calf serum (FCS) and as serum is known to contain some free beta 2-m, we examined whether beta t was bovine beta 2-m which had replaced endogenous beta 2-m on the surface of the cell. Here we show both that beta 2-m from FCS or human serum (HuS) used in cell culture can exchange with beta 2-m on the cell surface, and that beta t is in fact bovine beta 2-m.

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