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Endocrine epithelial cells do not normally express human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II molecules, but do so in a variety of autoimmune diseases. This finding suggests the hypothesis that such inappropriate class II-positive expression may enable these cells to present autoantigens and thus contribute to autoimmune pathogenesis. Indeed, class II-positive thyrocytes can present both exogenous antigenic peptides and intrinsic autoantigens to the appropriate T cells. Class II expression by thyrocytes can be induced by interferon-gamma, and is positively and negatively regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone and epidermal growth factor, respectively. Furthermore, heterogeneity of thyrocyte class II subregion expression appears to be related to the nature of the inducing stimulus. The complexity of regulatory signals is underlined by findings in type I diabetes: islet beta cells aberrantly express class II in this disease, but class II cannot be induced in normal beta cells by interferon-gamma.

Original publication




Journal article


Hormone research

Publication Date





118 - 124


Thyroid Gland, Epithelium, Antigen-Presenting Cells, Humans, Autoimmune Diseases, Thyrotropin, Autoantibodies, HLA-DR Antigens