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Eur J Immunol. 1999 May;29(5):1667-75.

Self glycolipids as T-cell autoantigens.

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Department of Research, University Hospital Basel, Switzerland.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system characterized by discrete areas of demyelination. An autoimmune response against components of myelin is thought to contribute to disease pathogenesis. Here we identify glycolipids as new targets recognized by T cells in multiple sclerosis patients. Circulating T cells reactive with glycolipids are more frequent in MS patients than in control donors as shown by enzyme-linked immunospot assay. They specifically recognize different types of glycolipids, such as gangliosides, sulfatide and galactosylceramide and release IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. T cells specific for gangliosides were found to be CD8+, TCR alphabeta+, restricted by the MHC-like CD1b molecule and specific for epitopes residing in the carbohydrate moiety of gangliosides. Our findings suggest that in addition to self proteins, self glycolipids may represent potential source of autoantigens recognized by T cells in autoimmune diseases.

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