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Of the various molecular regulatory mechanisms that may be used by human trophoblast cells to down-regulate expression of HLA class I genes, we chose to investigate the methylation of DNA, generally associated with inhibition of transcription. We analyzed the methylation status of different HLA class I loci in villous and extravillous cytotrophoblast cells and in vitro-differentiated syncytiotrophoblast, purified from human term placenta, as well as in the human trophoblast-derived JAR and JEG-3 cell lines. We then compared methylation status and transcriptional activity. An inverse relationship was established between JAR and JEG-3: HLA-A, -B, and -G are methylated and repressed in JAR, whereas in JEG-3, HLA-A is methylated and repressed but HLA-B and -G are partially methylated and transcribed. HLA-E is unmethylated and transcribed in both cell lines. Apart from HLA-E, which is always unmethylated and transcribed, no such relationship exists for the other class I loci in trophoblast cells. Whereas nonclassical HLA-G and classical HLA-A and -B class I genes are undermethylated in both cytotrophoblast and syncytiotrophoblast, they are clearly transcribed in the former but minimally transcribed in the latter subpopulation. Thus, the down-regulation of class I gene expression in the in vitro-differentiated syncytiotrophoblast is unlikely to be caused by DNA methylation. Furthermore, there is no detectable expression of any class I molecule at the cell surface of either trophoblast cell subpopulation, suggesting a negative control on translation and/or on the secretory pathway to the plasma membrane.


Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





3283 - 3299


Base Sequence, Blotting, Northern, Blotting, Southern, Cell Line, Flow Cytometry, Gene Expression Regulation, HLA Antigens, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Humans, Immunoenzyme Techniques, Methylation, Molecular Sequence Data, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Transcription, Genetic, Trophoblasts