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J Autoimmun. 1996 Apr;9(2):159-66.

NOD mouse diabetes: the ubiquitous mouse hsp60 is a beta-cell target antigen of autoimmune T cells.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


In the NOD mouse, the onset of beta-cell destruction is associated with spontaneous development of T-lymphocytes reactive to members of the 60 kDa heat shock protein (hsp60) family, including the Mycobacterial (MT) and the human (H) hsp60 molecules. Diabetes in the NOD mouse is a spontaneous tissue-specific autoimmune disease occurring without prior immunization. Therefore, it has been suggested that the anti-hsp60 T cells involved in the autoimmune diabetes of NOD mice might reflect molecular mimicry between MT-hsp60 and a beta-cell tissue specific molecule sharing similar T cell epitopes, the p277 peptide of hsp60 in particular. We cloned and expressed the mouse hsp60 cDNA from a beta-cell tumour. This mouse beta-cell hsp60 cDNA was found to be identical in sequence to the hsp60 of mouse fibroblasts. We further report that NOD spleen cells and an NOD diabetogenic T cell clone C9 responded to the recombinant mouse hsp60 and to its peptide M-p277 to the same extent as to H-hsp60 and H-p277. Splenocytes of mice of other strains did not respond to p277. Moreover, treatment of 3 month old NOD mice with the non-modified self M-p277 peptide was as efficient as H-p277, from which it differs in one amino acid, in halting progression of the disease. Thus, anti-H-p277 T cells modulating diabetes in the NOD mouse are autoreactive, and are targeted at the mouse beta-cell hsp60, which is not tissue specific. These findings raise the question of how a non-tissue specific molecule may be a target of a tissue-specific autoimmune disease.

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