The expression of Ia-like antigens by cultured human endothelial cells has been investigated by means of monoclonal antibody binding to intact cells and by immunoprecipitation of radioiodinated membrane proteins. Primary growing and confluent cultures of human umbilical vein endothelium express little, if any, detectable Ia-like antigens under standard culture conditions. However, treatment of primary cultures with the lectin phytohemagglutinin induces the expression of Ia-like antigens. This action of the lectin uniformly affects all the endothelial cells in a culture, does not depend on cell division, and is associated with a cell shape change. The data presented in this report provide unequivocal serological and biochemical demonstration of Ia-like antigens on human vascular endothelial cells. The fact that the expression of Ia-like antigens by endothelium can be induced may have important implications for organ transplantation and for regulation of the immunological response.
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