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J Autoimmun. 2001 May;16(3):175-86.

From infection to autoimmunity.

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The Department of Pathology and The W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


We have investigated two models of virally-induced autoimmune myocarditis in mice using widely different infectious agents. Infection of susceptible BALB/c mice with either Coxsackievirus or murine cytomegalovirus results in the development of acute myocarditis from day 7-14 after infection, and chronic myocarditis from day 28 onwards. The chronic phase of myocarditis is associated with mononuclear infiltration of the myocardium and the production of autoantibodies to cardiac myosin, although infectious virus cannot be detected past day 14 of infection. T cells and autoantibodies have been shown to be important for the development of autoimmune myocarditis. Many researchers have investigated the role of molecular mimicry in the development of myocarditis after viral infection. This review explores the 'adjuvant' effect of infection on the innate immune response and how this determines the progression to autoimmune disease. We show that NK cells protect against the development of disease, while complement and complement receptors are involved in the development of autoimmune myocarditis induced by inoculation with virus or cardiac myosin, respectively. Our results suggest that the innate immune response to viral and self-antigens may determine whether susceptible strains of mice progress to chronic autoimmune disease. These findings have broad implications for understanding the role of infection in inducing autoimmune disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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