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J Immunol. 2001 Mar 1;166(5):3549-55.

HLA-DP allele-specific T cell responses to beryllium account for DP-associated susceptibility to chronic beryllium disease.

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Department of Immunology, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Occupational exposure to small molecules, such as metals, is frequently associated with hypersensitivity reactions. Chronic beryllium (Be) disease (CBD) is a multisystem granulomatous disease that primarily affects the lung, and occurs in approximately 3% of individuals exposed to this element. Immunogenetic studies have demonstrated a strong association between CBD and possession of alleles of HLA-DP containing glutamic acid (Glu) at position 69 in the HLA-DP beta-chain. T cell clones were raised from three patients with CBD in whom exposure occurred 10 and 30 years previously. Of 25 Be-specific clones that were obtained, all were restricted by HLA-DP alleles with Glu at DP beta69. Furthermore, the proliferative responses of the clones were absolutely dependent upon DP beta Glu(69) in that a single amino acid substitution at this position abolished the response. As befits a disease whose pathogenesis involves a delayed type hypersensitivity response, the large majority of Be-specific clones secreted IFN-gamma (Th1) and little or no IL-4 (Th2) cytokines. This study provides insights into the molecular basis of DP2-associated susceptibility to CBD.

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