Freshly cultured vascular endothelial cells express the CD34 antigen in a diffuse cell surface pattern with some concentration on microvilli. Expression is downregulated with proliferation in continuous culture and undetectable after nine population doublings but can be maintained by restraining cell proliferation and promoting cell contact. Expression of CD34 at the antigen and mRNA levels on early passage cells is rapidly downregulated by interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), interferon-gamma (INF-gamma), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF- alpha) under conditions in which these ligands upregulate the adhesion molecules: endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule 1 (ELAM-1) and intracellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1). This reciprocal pattern of expression and the topographic distribution of CD34 molecules on the lumenal interdigitated microprocesses of adjacent endothelial cells in vivo suggest that CD34 might have a negative modulating role on adhesion functions of endothelia.

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