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Nat Med. 2000 Feb;6(2):215-8.

Molecular mimicry mediated by MHC class Ib molecules after infection with gram-negative pathogens.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine and The Graduate Program in Immunology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


The development of many autoimmune diseases has been etiologically linked to exposure to infectious agents. For example, a subset of patients with a history of Salmonella infection develop reactive arthritis. The persistence of bacterial antigen in arthritic tissue and the isolation of Salmonella or Yersinia reactive CD8+ T cells from the joints of patients with reactive arthritis support the etiological link between Gram-negative bacterial infection and autoimmune disease. Models proposed to account for the link between infection and autoimmunity include inflammation-induced presentation of cryptic self-epitopes, antigen persistence and molecular mimicry. Several studies support molecular mimicry as a mechanism for the involvement of class II epitopes in infectious disease-induced self-reactivity. Here, we have identified an immunodominant epitope derived from the S. typhimurium GroEL molecule. This epitope is presented by the mouse H2-T23-encoded class Ib molecule Qa-1 and was recognized by CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes induced after natural infection. S. typhimurium-stimulated cytotoxic T lymphocytes recognizing the GroEL epitope cross-reacted with a peptide derived from mouse heat shock protein 60 and recognized stressed macrophages. Our results indicate involvement of MHC class Ib molecules in infection-induced autoimmune recognition and indicate a mechanism for the etiological link between Gram-negative bacterial infection and autoimmunity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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