Expression of HLA-G in human cornea, an immune-privileged tissue

Hum Immunol. 2003 Nov;64(11):1039-44. doi: 10.1016/j.humimm.2003.08.346.


Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-G retains the capacity to modulate immune responses, favoring the establishment of tolerance in solid-tissue allotransplants. To better understand the mechanisms that promote corneal allograft survival, we investigated whether HLA-G was an immunoregulatory factor involved in corneal immunology. We therefore sought HLA-G expression in corneal tissues. Corneal transplantation consists in replacing the center of a diseased cornea with normal corneal tissue. Two corneal parts are not used in such surgery: diseased central corneal tissue and peripheral normal cornea. For this study, we used healthy corneas obtained from deceased donors and diseased corneas obtained from patients with pseudophakic bullous keratopathy or keratoconus who had undergone corneal transplantation. Immunohistochemical analysis carried out on the cryopreserved corneas showed a positive immunohistochemical staining with anti-HLA-G, anti-HLA-A, -B, and -C, and anti-HLA class I monoclonal antibodies. Staining was obtained for keratocytes, epithelial cells, and endothelial cells from both healthy and pathologic human corneas, revealing the presence of HLA class I proteins, including HLA-G. HLA-G transcripts were detected in normal cornea by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction with a classical pattern of alternative splicing. The detection of HLA-G protein in adult corneas leads to the conclusion that this protein may contribute to the maintenance of the privileged immune status of cornea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cornea / cytology
  • Cornea / immunology*
  • Corneal Diseases / immunology*
  • Corneal Transplantation
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • HLA Antigens / analysis*
  • HLA Antigens / genetics
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-A Antigens / analysis
  • HLA-B Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-C Antigens / analysis
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / analysis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratoconus / immunology*
  • Pseudophakia / immunology*
  • RNA / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-B Antigens
  • HLA-C Antigens
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • RNA