Endothelial Cell Class II Major Histocompatibility Complex Molecule Expression in Stereotactic Brain Biopsies of Patients with Acute Inflammatory/Demyelinating Conditions

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To determine if central nervous system (CNS) microvessel endothelial cells express class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules in early demyelinating lesions in humans, cerebral white matter (WM) biopsies from patients with acute inflammatory/demyelinating conditions, including 4 with multiple sclerosis (MS), were immunostained for class II MHC and other antigens. Eight of 9 biopsies showed focal MHC class II-positive endothelial cells; there were none in the CNS of 1 of the MS patients at autopsy. There were more vessels with class II-positive endothelial cells in areas with intact WM and gliosis than in areas with active demyelination or control WM; class II-positive endothelial cells in small venules and capillaries were adjacent to transmigrating and perivascular CD4-positive cells. By immunoelectron microscopy, class II molecules were localized to vesicles in endothelial cell cytoplasm, suggesting the potential for antigen processing. Perivascular cells, parenchymal microglia, mononuclear cells and the perinuclear cytoplasm but not the processes of astrocytes were also class II-positive. These data indicate that in acute CNS inflammatory/demyelinating lesions, endothelial cells focally and apparently transiently express class II MHC molecules. This expression implies potential antigen-specific interactions, immunoregulatory or signalling functions in endothelial cells, or it may render them susceptible to CD4-positive cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Thus, class II-positive endothelial cells may have pivotal immunologic roles in initial stages of T cell responses in human CNS WM, particularly in acute MS lesions

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