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J Immunol. 2000 Jun 1;164(11):5683-8.

CpG oligonucleotides are potent adjuvants for the activation of autoreactive encephalitogenic T cells in vivo.

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Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The mechanism of action of microbial adjuvants in promoting the differentiation of autoimmune effector cells remains to be elucidated. We demonstrate that CpG-containing oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) can completely substitute for heat-killed mycobacteria in the priming of encephalitogenic myelin-reactive T cells in vivo. The adjuvanticity of the CpG ODN was secondary to their direct ability to induce IL-12 or to act synergistically with endogenous IL-12 to promote Th1 differentiation and encephalitogenicity. T cells primed in the absence of CpG with Ag and IFA alone appeared to be in a transitional state and had not undergone differentiation along a conventional Th pathway. Unlike Th2 cells, they expressed low levels of the IL-12R beta 2 subunit and retained the ability to differentiate into encephalitogenic effectors when reactivated in vitro under Th1-polarizing conditions. These results support the use of CpG ODN as adjuvants but also suggest that they could potentially trigger autoimmune disease in a susceptible individual.

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