We have reported that enhanced levels of class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigen are expressed throughout the islets of prediabetic and newly diabetic BB rats and that the endocrine cells of the islet remained class II negative. In this study we investigated the molecular biology of lymphokine-induced expression of the class I and II MHC genes in subclones of the rat insulinoma cell line RINm5F. Treatment of a particular subclone of RINm5F cells (which are normally class II negative, class I low expressors) with crude lymphokine preparation or various doses of recombinant interferon-γ resulted in enhancement of MHC class I antigen expression but no detectable induction of class II antigen expression. This enhancement of class I antigen expression was a dose-dependent phenomenon and was preceded by a dose-dependent increase in class I–specific RNA. Both class I and II genes were induced at the transcriptional level, as determined by Northern blotting and in vitro nuclear transcription assays, but exhibited strikingly different induction kinetics. Supernatants from concanavalin A–stimulated splenocytes had a similar class I–restricted inductive effect on MHC gene expression. This subclone of RINm5F cells, which exhibits a class I lymphokine response–positive, class II response–negative phenotype, 1) mimics the behavior of β-cells in the prediabetic and newly diabetic pancreas and 2) represents a valuable system for probing the similarities and differences in the lymphokine-mediated induction pathways for class I and II MHC genes.

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