Villus epithelial cells in fetal human small intestine are HLA-DR- until 17 weeks gestation. At 18 weeks HLA-DR begins to be expressed in the epithelial cells, usually at the villus tips. Of 13 specimens examined between 18 and 22 weeks gestation, two were HLD-DR-, seven had HLA-DR expressed only at the villus tips and in four most of the villus epithelial cells were HLA-DR+. The epithelium overlying the Peyer's patches in fetal intestine was also HLA-DR+. T cells in explant cultures of fetal intestine were activated in situ using pokeweed mitogen. The local cell mediated immune reaction increased expression of HLA-DR on the villus and crypt epithelial cells. Organ culture supernatants from explants treated with pokeweed mitogen induced HLA-DR expression on the HT-29 epithelial cell line; an effect inhibited by antibody against human interferon gamma.
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