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Keywords:

  • Immunosuppressant;
  • interferon signaling;
  • MHC;
  • placental lactogen;
  • TSU;
  • untranslated RNA

PROBLEM: Human trophoblasts suppress interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-simulated expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II genes and thereby protect the conceptus from maternal immune attack. The mechanism of this suppression is poorly understood. METHOD OF STUDY: IFN-γ-responsive HeLa cells were stably transfected with trophoblast cDNA expression libraries and screened by negative immunoselection with an antibody to HLA-DR. RESULTS: Two suppressor cDNAs were isolated. One encoded the untranslated RNA trophoblast STAT utron (TSU), which blocked STAT1 nuclear translocation and can theoretically form triplex RNA–DNA at the class II transactivator gene promoters. The other encoded the N-terminal 28 residues of chorionic somatomammotropin (hCS). TSU-related genes were detected in human and macaque, but not in mouse, genomic DNA. CONCLUSIONS: The genetics of two human trophoblast MHC suppressors suggest that these functions have been gained in human placenta in recent evolutionary history. TSU and hCS play critical roles in suppression of MHC genes, which may lead to silencing by DNA methylation.