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J Clin Invest. 2013 Mar;123(3):1382-9. doi: 10.1172/JCI66938. Epub 2013 Feb 8.

Amelioration of arthritis through mobilization of peptide-specific CD8+ regulatory T cells.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Current therapies to treat autoimmune disease focus mainly on downstream targets of autoimmune responses, including effector cells and cytokines. A potentially more effective approach would entail targeting autoreactive T cells that initiate the disease cascade and break self tolerance. The murine MHC class Ib molecule Qa-1b (HLA-E in humans) exhibits limited polymorphisms and binds to 2 dominant self peptides: Hsp60(p216) and Qdm. We found that peptide-induced expansion of tetramer-binding CD8(+) Tregs that recognize Qa-1-Hsp60(p216) but not Qa-1-Qdm strongly inhibited collagen-induced arthritis, an animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis. Perforin-dependent elimination of autoreactive follicular Th (T(FH)) and Th17 cells by CD8(+) Tregs inhibited disease development. Infusion of in vitro-expanded CD8(+) Tregs increased the efficacy of methotrexate treatment and halted disease progression after clinical onset, suggesting an alternative approach to this first-line treatment. Moreover, infusion of small numbers of Qa-1-Hsp60(p216)-specific CD8(+) Tregs resulted in robust inhibition of autoimmune arthritis, confirming the inhibitory effects of Hsp60(p216) peptide immunization. These results suggest that strategies designed to expand Qa-1-restricted (HLA-E-restricted), peptide-specific CD8(+) Tregs represent a promising therapeutic approach to autoimmune disorders.

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