Background: CD1d is a nonpolymorphic MHC class I-like molecule which presents nonpeptide ligands, e.g. glycolipids, to NKT cells. These cells are known to have multiple effects on innate and adaptive immune responses and on the development of pathological conditions. In order to analyze CD1d expression and function in the rat, the first rat CD1dspecific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were generated. Methodology/Principal Findings: Two mAbs, WTH-1 and WTH-2, were generated which bound equally well to cell surfaceexpressed rat and mouse CD1d. Their non-overlapping epitopes were mapped to the CD1d heavy chain. Flow cytometry and immunohistological analyses revealed a nearly identical degree and pattern of CD1d expression for hematopoieitic cells of both species. Notable is also the detection of CD1d protein in mouse and rat Paneth cells as well as the extremely high CD1d expression in acinar exocrine cells of the rat pancreas and the expression of CD4 on rat marginal zone B cells. Both mAbs blocked α-galactosylceramide recognition by primary rat and mouse NKT cells. Interestingly, the two mAbs differed in their impact on the activation of various autoreactive T cell hybridomas, including the XV19.2 hybridoma whose activation was enhanced by the WTH-1 mAb. Conclusions/Significance: The two novel monoclonal antibodies described in this study, allowed the analysis of CD1d expression and CD1d-restricted T cell responses in the rat for the first time. Moreover, they provided new insights into mechanisms of CD1d-restricted antigen recognition. While CD1d expression by hematopoietic cells of mice and rats was extremely similar, CD1d protein was detected at not yet described sites of non-lymphatic tissues such as the rat exocrine pancreas and Paneth cells. The latter is of special relevance given the recently reported defects of Paneth cells in CD1d-/- mice, which resulted in an altered composition of the gut flora.
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