Most previous studies to evaluate endothelial cell-T lymphocyte interactions have used human peripheral blood as a source of T lymphocytes and human umbilical vein endothelial cells as a source of endothelia. Implicit in this experimental system are allogeneic lymphocyte-endothelial interactions, which are largely ignored. To overcome this problem, we isolated gonadal vein endothelial cells (GVEC) along with matched splenic macrophages and T lymphocytes from cadaveric donors, thus providing a completely autologous series of cells for experimentation. First, GVEC were analyzed for morphology, surface pheno-type, and cytokine mRNA expression, and found to be indistinguishable from human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Using this system, we observed that irradiated GVEC were able to promote a 2- to 3-fold increase in the proliferation of matched autologous splenic T cells after PHA stimulation. This indicates that the costimulator activity of endothelial cells reported by others is an intrinsic property of endothelial cells, and is not a consequence of endothelial alloantigens. We also used this system to assess the relative abilities of GVEC and macrophages obtained from the same donor to stimulate the proliferation of purified allogeneic CD3+ PBL. We found the following hierarchy of alloantigenicity in this experimental system: splenic macrophages > IFN-γ-treated GVEC » untreated GVEC = TNFα-treated GVEC. These studies demonstrate that allogeneic macrophages are intrinsically more antigenic than endothelial cells derived from the same donor. Furthermore, they illustrate the utility of this experimental system to obtain data regarding lymphocyte-endothelial interactions that are otherwise unobtainable.
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