MHC class II gene silencing in trophoblast cells is caused by inhibition of CIITA expression

Ann C. Morris, James L. Riley, William H. Fleming, Jeremy M. Boss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


PROBLEM: Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecule expression is specifically suppressed on fetal trophoblasts, even in response to interferon (IFN)-γ, a potent inducer of MHC class II genes. The suppression of class II induction has been suggested to play a role in preventing rejection of the fetal allograft. The mechanism of this suppression is unknown. METHOD OF STUDY: Human trophoblast cell lines were examined for expression of MHC class II transcription factors and for activity of the IFN-γ signaling pathway. Additionally, trophoblast cells were transfected with a vector expressing the class II transactivator, CIITA, and assayed for class II expression. RESULTS: The MHC class II transcription factors RFX and X2BP and the IFN-γ signaling pathway components are expressed constitutively and are functional in trophoblasts. However, CIITA expression was absent in trophoblasts and could not be induced by IFN-γ. Transfection of CIITA into trophoblast cells resulted in derepression of class II gene expression. CONCLUSIONS: The lack of induction of MHC class II genes in response to IFN-γ in trophoblast cells is caused neither by the absence of factors that bind class II promoters, nor by a lesion in the IFN-γ signaling pathway, but results from a specific inhibition of the CIITA gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-394
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene regulation
  • IFN-γ
  • MHC class II
  • Maternal-fetal tolerance
  • Trophoblasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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