An immunogold-silver enhancement technique, which combines effective labeling of viable isolated islets with the ultrastructural resolution of cytological details, was applied in electron microscopy to identify major histocompatibility complex (MHC) structures on islet cells. Incubation of freshly isolated islets from CAP (RT1c) and LEW (RT1i) rats with OX18, an MHC class I antibody, showed strong positive reactivity in macrophages and/or dendritic-like cells (Mø-DCs) and vascular endothelial cells (VEs) and a comparatively weaker reactivity in endocrine α-, β-, and δ-cells. With MHC class II antibody OX6 (anti-I-A), Mø-DCs were strongly labeled in both rat strains on the surface and on internal structures. Three of five particularly high titered batches of OX6 revealed MHC class II expression on VE and β-cells. Four days of in vitro culture in combination with a high concentration of glucose and interferon-γ induced strong enhancement of MHC class I structures and, to a lesser extent, class II structures on β-cells.

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