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J Biol Chem. 1999 Aug 6;274(32):22321-7.

Isoaspartyl post-translational modification triggers autoimmune responses to self-proteins.

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  • 1Section of Rheumatology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA. mark.mamula@yale.edu


The normal functioning immune system is programmed to attack foreign pathogens and other foreign proteins while maintaining tolerance to self-proteins. The mechanisms by which tolerance is broken in the initiation of autoimmunity are not completely understood. In the present study, mice immunized with the murine cytochrome c peptide 90-104 showed no response by the B or T cell compartments. However, immunization with the isoaspartyl form of this peptide, where the linkage of Asp(93) to Leu(94) occurs through the beta-carboxyl group, resulted in strong B and T cell autoimmune responses. Antibodies elicited by immunization with the isoaspartyl form of self-peptide were cross-reactive in binding to both isoforms of cytochrome c peptide and to native cytochrome c self-protein. In a similar manner, immunization of mice with the isoaspartyl form of a peptide autoantigen of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) resulted in strong B and T cell responses while mice maintained tolerance to the normal aspartyl form of self-antigen. Isoaspartyl linkages within proteins are enhanced in aging and stressed cells and arise under physiological conditions. These post-translationally modified peptides may serve as an early immunologic stimulus in autoimmune disease.

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