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Clin Immunol. 2006 Nov;121(2):134-43. Epub 2006 May 12.

T cell recognition in chronic beryllium disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Rome, Italy.


Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a granulomatous lung disorder caused by beryllium exposure in the workplace and is characterized by the accumulation of beryllium-specific CD4(+) T cells. Depending on genetic susceptibility and the nature of the exposure, CBD occurs in up to 20% of exposed workers. Genetic susceptibility has been associated with particular HLA-DP alleles, especially those possessing a negatively charged glutamic acid residue at the 69th position of the beta-chain. The mechanism for this association lies in the ability of these HLA-DP molecules to bind and present beryllium to pathogenic CD4(+) T cells. Large numbers of effector memory, beryllium-specific CD4(+) T cells are recruited to the lung of these subjects and secrete Th1-type cytokines upon beryllium recognition. The presence of circulating beryllium-specific CD4(+) T cells directly correlates with the severity of lymphocytic alveolitis. With the presence of a known antigenic stimulus, CBD serves as an important model of immune-mediated, organ destruction. Thus, our findings in CBD have important implications for studies in autoimmune diseases, in particular those with an unknown inciting antigen and an inaccessible target organ.

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