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J Immunol. 2000 Jan 15;164(2):670-8.

Pathologic role and temporal appearance of newly emerging autoepitopes in relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Relapsing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (R-EAE) is a CD4+ T cell-mediated demyelinating disease model for multiple sclerosis. Myelin destruction during the initial relapsing phase of R-EAE in SJL mice initiated by immunization with the proteolipid protein (PLP) epitope PLP139-151 is associated with activation of T cells specific for the endogenous, non-cross-reactive PLP178-191 epitope (intramolecular epitope spreading), while relapses in R-EAE induced with the myelin basic protein (MBP) epitope MBP84-104 are associated with PLP139-151-specific responses (intermolecular epitope spreading). Here, we demonstrate that T cells specific for endogenous myelin epitopes play the major pathologic role in mediating clinical relapses. T cells specific for relapse-associated epitopes can serially transfer disease to naive recipients and are demonstrable in the CNS of mice with chronic R-EAE. More importantly, induction of myelin-specific tolerance to relapse-associated epitopes, by i.v. injection of ethylene carbodiimide-fixed peptide-pulsed APCs, either before disease initiation or during remission from acute disease effectively blocks the expression of the initial disease relapse. Further, blockade of B7-1-mediated costimulation with anti-B7-1 F(ab) during disease remission from acute PLP139-151-induced disease prevents clinical relapses by inhibiting activation of PLP178-191-specific T cells. The protective effects of anti-B7-1 F(ab) treatment are long-lasting and highly effective even when administered following the initial relapsing episode wherein spreading to a MBP epitope (MBP84-104) is inhibited. Collectively, these data indicate that epitope spreading is B7-1 dependent, plays a major pathologic role in disease progression, and follows a hierarchical order associated with the relative encephalitogenic dominance of the myelin epitopes (PLP139-151 > PLP178-191 > MBP84-104).

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