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Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1992 Nov;18(4):729-40.

Genetic and environmental factors in the immune pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla.


Our experiments have led us to conclude that the rheumatoid arthritis shared epitope may act as a peptide that is important for positive and negative selection of T lymphocytes, that T lymphocytes are skewed by positive selection to recognize epitopes that are similar but not identical to self, and that peptide sequences that are similar to the RA-shared epitope are abundantly expressed by microorganisms that chronically infect most people. This combination of events could partly explain the association of the shared epitope with the severe forms of RA. The hypothesis cannot be tested directly, because we do not postulate that any unique population of autoreactive T cells is expanded in RA; however, the role of positive selection in molding the human T-cell repertoire to exogenous antigens can be tested by mapping T-cell antigenic determinants on the E. coli dnaJ protein or the gp110 protein of EBV in people with different HLA-DR types. Moreover, positive selection models imply that maternal antigens that cross the placenta can influence the T-cell repertoire. Thus, one might expect to find that the frequency of HLA-DR4 in the mothers of patients with RA who themselves lack the DR4 antigen, would be more frequent than predicted by chance alone. As the principles of positive selection are more precisely delineated in animal systems, it should become possible to ascertain more clearly how the shared epitope on HLA-DR molecules enhances the severity of autoimmune reactions; however, RA only occurs in humans; possibly because of the unique inability of human macrophages to replicate. Thus, only the direct analysis of patients can directly reveal the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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