The MHC class II transactivator gene (CIITA) coordinately controls the expression of the three major human class II genes, HLA-DR, HLA-DQ, and HLA-DP. Indeed, patients with one form of MHC class II immunodeficiency disease, due to defective CIITA genes, lack expression of all three isotypes. Nevertheless, there is substantial evidence that human class II genes are not always coordinately regulated, raising the possibility that CIITA-independent, isotype-specific class II regulatory pathways exist. To address this issue, we have generated a dominant negative mutant of CIITA that lacks the acidic transcription-activating N terminus, but retains the proline/serine/threonine-rich domain. Three newly produced anti-CIITA mAbs revealed that this mutant protein lacked N-terminal epitopes. In this study, we report that this CIITA dominant negative mutant repressed the constitutive expression of all three class II isotypes in human EBV-B cell lines, as well as IFN-gamma-induced class II transcription in HeLa cells. However, in a CIITA-deficient, EBV-transformed B cell line, clone 13, the dominant negative mutant did not alter the endogenous expression of the HLA-DQ gene. Taken together, these data demonstrate the existence of both CIITA-dependent and -independent class II regulatory pathways. Furthermore, our data provide evidence that the latter pathways can be isotype specific.

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