We have studied the interactions of peripheral blood T lymphocytes with cultured human vascular endothelial cells, focusing upon endothelial cell surface antigens important for T cell recognition. Under standard culture conditions endothelial cells express class I but not class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens. However, class II antigens may be induced by activated T cells or T cell products, including the lymphokine immune interferon. Immune interferon concomitantly increases class I antigen expression and causes a change in cell shape. In addition to vascular endothelial cells, we have found that vascular smooth muscle cells and human dermal fibroblasts may also be induced by immune interferon to express class II antigens. All known human class II antigens are induced (i.e. HLA-DR, DC and SB) as is the associated invariant chain. Induced antigen expression in these cells is stable over several days, although mRNA levels decline rapidly upon withdrawal of interferon. Vascular and stromal cell class II antigens are functional, in that they can be recognized by cytolytic and helper T cell clones. Several non-MHC antigens are also involved in the recognition of endothelial and stromal cells by T cells. We propose a model for the role of inducible class II molecules on endothelium and stromal cells in vivo: The induction of class II MHC antigens on endothelial cells, locally mediated by activated T cells, enables endothelium to present an immunogenic cell surface structure, comprised of antigen plus self class II polymorphic determinants, which in turn, serves to recruit additional antigen-specific T cells from the circulation into the site of a developing cell mediated immune response. Class II molecules on stromal cells, also induced locally at the site of a developing response, confers immune accessory function on these cells and may serve to augment and sustain a T cell response.
- immune interferon
- lymphocyte function-associated antigen
- major histocompatibility complex
- mixed lymphocyte endothelial reaction
- mixed lymphocyte reaction