Proximal tubular epithelial cells from mice which develop autoimmune interstitial nephritis were found to express the nephritogenic target antigen, 3M-1. Anti-3M-1 mAbs (alpha 3M-1-Ab) were used to positively select for 3M-1-secreting tubular epithelium and, after stabilization in culture, this new cell line (MCT) was examined for the production of several moieties important to either immune interactions or to the development of extracellular matrix. Alkaline phosphatase-staining MCT cells also express epithelial growth factor receptors with a Kd of 0.87 nM and an epithelial growth factor receptor constant (Ro) of 2.1 X 10(4) receptors/cell. MCT culture supernatants contain greater amounts of laminin, and types IV and V procollagens compared to types I and III procollagens, and growing MCT cells on type I collagen matrix causes them to preferentially secrete even more type IV and V procollagen. The 30,000-Mr 3M-1 antigen could be immunoprecipitated from biosynthetically labeled MCT cell supernatants with alpha 3M-1-Ab. An identical-sized moiety was isolated by immunoaffinity chromatography from collagenase-solubilized mouse kidney tubular basement membranes. The 3M-1 antigen can be found on the MCT cell surface by radioimmunoassay, or deposited in a linear array in the extracellular matrix surrounding the MCT cells in culture by immunofluorescence. Mature messenger RNA species for both class I and class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules were detected by Northern hybridization, and their corresponding cell surface gene products were detected by cytofluorography of MCT cells stained with haplotype-specific antibodies. Both the cell surface 3M-1 and the small amounts of detected class II MHC molecules appear to be biologically functional, as MCT cells can support the proliferation of 3M-1-specific, class II MHC-restricted helper T cells in culture. These findings suggest that MCT cells provide all the necessary biological parameters for interfacing both as the target of a nephritogenic immune response, and as a potential source for new extracellular matrix which develops as a fibrogenic response to interstitial nephritis.

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