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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Mar 18;94(6):2534-9.

Immunohistochemistry of HLA-H, the protein defective in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis, reveals unique pattern of expression in gastrointestinal tract.

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Edward A. Doisy Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, MO 63104, USA.


Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a common autosomal recessive disorder of iron metabolism that leads to excessive iron storage in the liver and other organs. Recently, between 83 and 100% of HH patients have been found to be homozygous for the same mutation in a novel major histocompatibility complex class I-like gene, called the HLA-H gene. The Cys-282 --> Tyr mutation in HH patients would be expected to disrupt the function of the HLA-H gene product by altering a critical disulfide bridge. As a first step in understanding the function of the HLA-H gene product, we generated an antibody to a C-terminal peptide and used it for immunolocalization of the HLA-H protein in the gastrointestinal tract of Finnish and American subjects presumed not to have HH. Although staining for the HLA-H protein was seen in some epithelial cells in every segment of the alimentary canal, its cellular and subcellular expression in the small intestine were quite distinct from those seen in other segments. In contrast to the stomach and colon, where staining was polarized and restricted to the basolateral surfaces, and in contrast to the epithelial cells of the esophagus and submucosal leukocytes, which showed nonpolarized staining around the entire plasma membrane, the staining in small intestine was mainly intracellular and perinuclear, limited to cells in deep crypts. Prior genetic evidence suggested that a defective HLA-H protein is the molecular basis of HH. Here we show that the HLA-H protein not only varies in its pattern of expression along the cranial/caudal axis of the gastrointestinal tract but that it has a unique subcellular localization in the crypts of the small intestine in proximity to the presumed sites of iron absorption.

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