Susceptibility to inflammatory disease in HLA-B27 transgenic rat lines correlates with the level of B27 expression

Joel D Taurog, Shanna D. Maika, William A. Simmons, Maxime Breban, Robert E Hammer

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212 Scopus citations


To investigate the role of the class I MHC molecule HLA-B27 in the spondyloarthropathies, we produced rats transgenic for HLA-B27 and human β2-microglobulin. Of five lines bearing >1 copy of each transgene and showing hemizygous expression of both transgenes, two (lines 21-4H and 33-3) developed spontaneous inflammatory disease that closely resembled B27- associated human disease. Two lines, 21-4L and 25-6, remained healthy even when homozygous for the transgene locus, whereas the 21-3 line, bearing the third highest transgene copy number, developed disease similar to that of the 21-4H and 33-3 lines only when homozygous for the transgene locus. The disease-prone lines showed higher expression of B27-thymic mRNA in utero, splenic mRNA by 5 days of age, and splenic cell surface protein by the time of disease onset-than the disease-resistant lines. Disease susceptibility thus appeared to correlate with gene copy number and the quantity of B27 in lymphoid cells. The increase in the amount of B27 protein did not appear to be simply a consequence of the inflammatory disease because 1) there was no similar change in endogenous RT1 class I expression; 2) no alteration of B27 expression occurred in 21-4H rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis; 3) in rats with inflammatory disease transgenic for HLA-A2 and the 21-4H transgene locus, A2 expression was the same as in healthy rats transgenic for A2 but not B27; and 4) the transgenes in disease-prone and disease-resistant lines were equally susceptible to induction by IFN-γ. Immunocytochemistry of the distal colon, an early site of inflammation, showed that the B27 Ag is expressed at high levels in cells of the lamina propria, but not at all in colonic epithelial cells. Taken together, the data suggest that the B27 transgene is expressed in a copy number dependent, position-independent manner in lymphoid tissue and that disease results from the expression of B27 above a critical threshold level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4168-4178
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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