Mucosa from human stomach, terminal ileum, appendix, and colon was studied for epithelial HLA-DR expression using an immunoperoxidase technique with a monoclonal antibody that detects HLA-DR antigens in paraffin embedded tissues. Expression of HLA-DR by epithelial cells was studied with particular reference to the effect of adjacent lymphoid tissue or surrounding chronic inflammation. In the stomach, epithelial HLA-DR appeared to be induced by chronic inflammation. Where lymphoid nodules were present only that epithelium directly adjacent to the lymphoid tissue expressed HLA-DR. Expression was independent of cell type. Epithelium adjacent to normal lymphoid tissue in the terminal ileum, appendix, and colon also expressed HLA-DR, the relationship between expression and proximity to lymphoid tissue being remarkably precise. Expression of HLA-DR by gastrointestinal epithelium appears to be an effect of adjacent lymphocytes, whether part of an inflammatory response or normal tissue. This must be taken into account when assessing HLA-DR expression by gastrointestinal epithelium.
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