The present investigations show that class I HLA are internalized by macrophage/monocyte type cells. Anti-class I antibody-binding assays show that about 30% of class I Ag present on cell surface are endocytosed within 1 h. Electronmicroscopic investigations reveal that, like other well established receptor molecules, internalization of HLA is mediated by coated pits and coated vesicles. The endocytosed Ag are transferred from endosomes to trans-Golgi reticulum and trans-Golgi cisternae, suggesting recycling of these Ag back to the cell surface. In the presence of phorbol ester tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate, there is a modest increase in the rate of internalization. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that class I Ag on monocytes/macrophages behave like receptor molecules. Malignant transformation of monocytic cells apparently causes the loss of this property of class I Ag.

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