Previous reports indicate that human hepatocytes do not express class I and class II MHC antigens. Our analyses on 10 human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines by immunofluorescence tests and RIA, demonstrate that all the human HCC cell lines tested express class I MHC antigens and among them, three poorly differentiated human HCC cell lines also express class II MHC antigens. Results of immunoprecipitation and/or Western blotting experiments indicate similarity in the chemical nature of both the class I and class II MHC antigens expressed by the human HCC cell lines and by a human B lymphoblastoid cell line Raji. Furthermore, a new variant form of class I antigen was detected in some of these HCC cell lines. Immunohistochemical studies of HCC tissues using the peroxidase-antiperoxidase staining method indicated that class I and class II antigens were detectable in 7 out of 11 and 3 out of 11 HCC tissues from patients, respectively. The availability of MHC class I antigen-positive cultured HCC cell lines, including the poorly differentiated lines that also express MHC class II antigen, has provided us with interesting models to study the relationship between expression of MHC antigen and transformation and differentiation of human hepatocytes. These studies will also allow us some insight into the role of MHC class I and class II antigen in the immunosensitivity and immunogenicity of HCC cells to the host-immune response.


C H Sung, C P Hu, H C Hsu, A K Ng, C K Chou, L P Ting, T S Su, S H Han, C M Chang


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