The class II transactivator (CIITA) has been shown to be required for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II gene expression in B cells and its deficiency is responsible for a hereditary MHC class II deficiency. Here we show that CIITA is also involved in the inducible expression of class II genes upon interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) treatment. The expression of CIITA is also inducible with IFN-gamma before the induction of MHC class II mRNA. In addition, CIITA mRNA expression does not require new protein synthesis, although new protein synthesis is necessary for the transcription of class II. This suggests that synthesis of new CIITA protein may be essential to induce class II gene expression. We also showed that the JAK1 protein tyrosine kinase activity is required to induce the expression of CIITA upon IFN-gamma stimulation. This finding indicates that CIITA is part of the signaling cascade from the IFN-gamma receptor to the activation of class II genes. In addition, the expression of CIITA is sufficient to activate class II genes in the absence of IFN-gamma stimulation suggesting that CIITA is the major regulatory factor for the inducible expression of class II genes. Together, these data suggest that CIITA is the IFN-inducible cycloheximide sensitive factor previously shown to be required for the induction of MHC class II gene expression.

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