AIM--To examine the expression of HLA-ABC and HLA-DR major histocompatibility (MHC) antigens and intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 in normal, inflamed, metaplastic, and neoplastic oesophageal tissue and in freshly disaggregated tumours. METHODS--Sequential sections of frozen tissue and cytospins of freshly disaggregated tumour were stained using the ABC peroxidase system and monoclonal antibodies specific for HLA-ABC, HLA-DR and ICAM-1. RESULTS--Normal oesophageal tissue showed positive staining for HLA-ABC in the basal layers of the oesophageal squamous epithelium and on the epithelial cells of the submucosal oesophageal glands. HLA-DR and ICAM-1 were not detected in either of these cell types. In 20 of 37 (54%) carcinomas HLA-ABC was expressed weakly, with heterogeneous expression in nine (24%). Two tumours showed strong expression of HLA-ABC, but 15 of 37 (41%) were negative. HLA-DR and ICAM-1 were expressed weakly in six of 37 (16%) carcinomas without correlation with each other or with the expression of HLA-ABC. CONCLUSIONS--HLA-ABC is absent from a high proportion of oesophageal carcinomas (41%) and is otherwise variably and weakly expressed with strong expression in only a small fraction (3%). In other carcinomas there is a higher level of HLA-ABC expression. This discrepancy may partly explain the aggressive nature of oesophageal carcinomas. HLA-DR and ICAM-1 are not normally expressed on those cells from which oesophageal carcinomas are thought to arise. The limited expression found here could suggest a partial or inhibited immune response against oesophageal carcinoma. In vivo repressive factors may be involved.
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