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J Mol Biol. 1999 Apr 16;287(5):983-99.

High-resolution autoreactive epitope mapping and structural modeling of the 65 kDa form of human glutamic acid decarboxylase.

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  • 1Departments of Microbiology/Immunology and Medicine, Hormone Research Institute, San Francisco, CA, 94143-0534, USA.


The smaller isoform of the GABA-synthesizing enzyme, glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65), is unusually susceptible to becoming a target of autoimmunity affecting its major sites of expression, GABA-ergic neurons and pancreatic beta-cells. In contrast, a highly homologous isoform, GAD67, is not an autoantigen. We used homolog-scanning mutagenesis to identify GAD65-specific amino acid residues which form autoreactive B-cell epitopes in this molecule. Detailed mapping of 13 conformational epitopes, recognized by human monoclonal antibodies derived from patients, together with two and three-dimensional structure prediction led to a model of the GAD65 dimer. GAD65 has structural similarities to ornithine decarboxylase in the pyridoxal-5'-phosphate-binding middle domain (residues 201-460) and to dialkylglycine decarboxylase in the C-terminal domain (residues 461-585). Six distinct conformational and one linear epitopes cluster on the hydrophilic face of three amphipathic alpha-helices in exons 14-16 in the C-terminal domain. Two of those epitopes also require amino acids in exon 4 in the N-terminal domain. Two distinct epitopes reside entirely in the N-terminal domain. In the middle domain, four distinct conformational epitopes cluster on a charged patch formed by amino acids from three alpha-helices away from the active site, and a fifth epitope resides at the back of the pyridoxal 5'-phosphate binding site and involves amino acid residues in exons 6 and 11-12. The epitopes localize to multiple hydrophilic patches, several of which also harbor DR*0401-restricted T-cell epitopes, and cover most of the surface of the protein. The results reveal a remarkable spectrum of human autoreactivity to GAD65, targeting almost the entire surface, and suggest that native folded GAD65 is the immunogen for autoreactive B-cells.

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