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Hum Immunol. 1982 Aug;5(1):21-34.

Expression of HLA antigens by human thymic epithelial cells.


Human thymuses were examined by tissue section staining with antibodies specific for monomorphic and polymorphic HLA-A, B, C, and DR determinants. The principal cell type expressing high levels of HLA antigens has the distribution of epithelial cells. Immunoelectron microscopy confirmed their epithelial nature. As in the mouse, both medullary and cortical epithelial cells express high levels of class II (DR) antigens, a finding that is remarkable in that these antigens were originally thought to be restricted to lymphoid and accessory cells. Class I (A, B, and C) antigens are also present on thymic epithelial cells. They are easily detectable on medullary epithelial cells, but two distinct patterns of cortical staining were observed. One group of antibodies produced intense dendritic staining throughout the cortex; the other group produced only faint or no cortical dendritic staining at all. These different staining patterns do not correlate with known properties of the antibodies and thus appear to be due to intrinsic properties of the different A, B, and C antigens.

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