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Expression and release of soluble HLA-E is an immunoregulatory feature of endothelial cell activation.

Coupel S., Moreau A., Hamidou M., Horejsi V., Soulillou J.P., Charreau B.

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-E belongs, with HLA-G and HLA-F, to the non-classic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I (Ib) molecules, broadly defined by a limited polymorphism and a restricted pattern of cellular expression. In contrast to HLA-G, the expression and function of HLA-E and HLA-F in physiologic and pathologic processes remain poorly established. In the present study, we show that HLA-E protein expression in normal human nonlymphoid organs is mainly restricted to endothelial cells (ECs). HLA-E is also basally expressed by B and T lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells and by macrophages. We demonstrate that tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha), interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), and interferon gamma (IFNgamma) up-regulate the cell-surface expression of HLA-E on ECs in vitro and induce the release of soluble HLA-E (sHLA-E). HLA-E up-regulation protects IFN-gamma-activated ECs from NK-mediated cell lysis, while sHLA-E protects bystander cells. Finally, sHLA-E is not detected in normal sera, and increased serum levels correlate with disease activity in patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated systemic vasculitis. Thus, HLA-E expression and release of sHLA-E are features of EC activation and emphasize immunoregulatory functions of the endothelium. The present identification of soluble HLA-E molecules may have important implications in understanding the pathogenesis of immune-mediated vascular diseases and for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients.

Blood 109:2806-2814(2007) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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