Research, Connect, Protect



Expression and in vitro upregulation of MHCII in koala lymphocytes


Quintin Lau, Paul J. Canfield, Damien P. Higgins ∗

Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, B14 McMaster Building, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia

Understanding and measuring immune activity of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), is important to studies of the epidemiology and impact of the widespread chlamydial and koala retroviral (KoRV) infections that occur in this iconic but increasingly threatened species. To explore the interaction of disease and immunity, and to assess the potential for use of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHCII) upregulation as an indicator of lymphocyte activation in in vitro immune assays, we have investigated the expression of MHCII in koala lymphocytes by flow cytometry. MHCII expression was upregulated in mitogen stimulated B lymphocytes in vitro but no such increase was detected in vivo in free-living koalas with active inflammation. In assessing phenotypic baseline data of captive koalas, we have identified that MHCII is expressed predominantly on circulating B lymphocytes (85.7 ± 2.4%) but on very few T lymphocytes (3.4 ± 1.9%), even following activation, and suggest that the latter finding might be compensated by the greater absolute numbers of peripheral blood B lymphocytes in this species relative to many eutherian species.