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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Dec 7;101(49):17180-5. Epub 2004 Nov 29.

Functional regulatory immune responses against human cartilage glycoprotein-39 in health vs. proinflammatory responses in rheumatoid arthritis.

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  • 1Departments of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


The class of immune response against autoantigens could profoundly influence the onset and/or outcome of autoimmune diseases. Until now, there is only limited information on the antigen-specific balance between proinflammatory and regulatory responses in humans. Here we analyzed the natural immune response against a candidate autoantigen in rheumatoid arthritis, human cartilage glycoprotein-39 (HC gp-39). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy individuals reacted against HC gp-39 with the production of IL-10 but not IFN-gamma. Ex vivo assays indicated that the naturally occurring HC gp-39-specific immune response in bulk is powerful enough to suppress antigen-specific recall responses, demonstrating that rather than being unresponsive, the HC gp-39-directed immune response in healthy individuals shows a strong bias toward a regulatory phenotype. Moreover, CD4(+) T cell lines directed against HC gp-39 expressed CD25, glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor, and Foxp3 molecules and were capable of suppressing antigen-specific T cell responses. Cell-cell contact was required for this suppression. As opposed to healthy individuals, the HC gp-39-directed immune response in 50% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis exhibits polarization toward a proinflammatory T helper 1 phenotype and is significantly less powerful in suppressing antigen-specific recall responses. Together these findings indicate that the presence of HC gp-39-specific immune responses in healthy individuals may have an inhibitory effect on inflammatory responses in areas where HC gp-39 is present. Furthermore, these data indicate that the class of HC gp-39-directed immune response in rheumatoid arthritis patients has shifted from an antiinflammatory toward a proinflammatory phenotype.

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