The brain has been considered for a long time as an immunologically privileged site because of the lack of a true lymphatic system and the existence of several barriers that isolate it from the periphery. In the last few years, it became evident that cells in the central nervous system (astrocytes, microglial cells, and brain capillary endothelial cells) can be induced to express class II MHC and present Ag to T lymphocytes. The brain capillary endothelial cells, which are strategically located at the interface between blood and brain, could be involved in the initiation of immune responses within the brain parenchyma. We have previously characterized bovine brain capillary endothelial cells in culture and shown that they maintain in vitro a fully differentiated phenotype associated with the blood-brain barrier endothelium. In order to assess the role of these cells in the development of immune responses in the brain, we initiated the present study on the regulation of their class II MHC surface expression. Our data indicate that this expression on bovine brain capillary endothelial cells is inducible by IFN-gamma and further stimulated by catecholamines through activation of beta-adrenergic receptors. However, this latter effect is not mimicked by forskolin, theophylline, or dibutyryl-cAMP, suggesting the involvement of a cAMP-independent mechanism.