HLA class-I expression is weak in embryonic stem cells but increases rapidly during lineage progression. It is unknown whether all three classical HLA class-I antigens follow the same developmental program. In the present study, we investigated allele-specific expression of HLA-A, -B, and -C at the mRNA and protein levels on human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow and adipose tissue as well as striated muscle satellite cells and lymphocytes. Using multicolour flow cytometry, we found high cell surface expression of HLA-A on all stem cells and PBMC examined. Surprisingly, HLA-B was either undetectable or very weakly expressed on all stem cells protecting them from complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) using relevant human anti-B and anti-Cw sera. IFNγ stimulation for 48–72 h was required to induce full HLA–B protein expression. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR showed that IFNγ induced a 9–42 fold increase of all six HLA-A,-B,-C gene transcripts. Interestingly, prior to stimulation, gene transcripts for all but two alleles were present in similar amounts suggesting that post-transcriptional mechanisms regulate the constitutive expression of HLA-A,-B, and -C. Locus-restricted expression of HLA-A, -B and -C challenges our current understanding of the function of these molecules as regulators of CD8+ T-cell and NK-cell function and should lead to further inquiries into their expression on other cell types
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