HLA class II antigens mediate interactions among cells involved in the immune response and play an important role in the process of self recognition. We made use of conventional alloantisera and six well-characterized monoclonal antibodies (MoAb) to study the HLA class II antigens on CALLA-positive malignant B cell populations and autologous normal B cell lines. Forty additional HLA class II-specific MoAb were also tested for their ability to bind to these cells. By using indirect immunofluorescence and immune precipitation assays, we find that malignant B cells often fail to express one or more of the three known types of HLA class II antigens. Cell lines with the following five phenotypes have been identified: HLA-DR+, -DQ+, -DP+; HLA-DR+, -DQ-, -DP+; HLA-DR-, -DQ+, -DP+; HLA-DR-, -DQ-, -DP+; and HLA-DR-, -DQ-, -DP-. These cell lines have been used to characterize the subregion specificity of MoAb that react with HLA class II antigens. This work confirms the existence of complicated patterns of serologic cross-reactivity between the three different types of HLA class II molecules. It also increases our understanding of the specificity of individual MoAb, thereby facilitating future investigation of the distribution and function of individual antigens. Our studies are consistent with the proposal that altered expression of HLA antigens on tumors might impair recognition of these cells by the immune system of the host, thereby contributing to the proliferation of a malignant clone.

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