Immunocytochemical staining for alpha-interferon was carried out on cervical biopsy specimens showing non-condylomatous koilocytic atypia (n = 12) and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (n = 18), both of which are associated with human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Normal cervical tissue obtained from hysterectomy specimens was also assessed. Koilocytes were not immunoreactive for alpha interferon and keratinocyte staining was observed in only four cases of intraepithelial neoplasia. HPV infection alone does not therefore seem to induce the production of alpha interferon in cervical squamous epithelium. There was variable but, in some cases, prominent staining of cells in the stromal inflammatory infiltrate as well as intraepithelial cells which had morphological and immunocytochemical characteristics of Langerhans' cells. Alpha interferon immunoreactivity in Langerhans' cells is in keeping with derivation from the mononuclear phagocyte system and may be important in the host response to HPV infection.
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