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J Immunol. 2007 Feb 15;178(4):2212-20.

Peripheral tolerance induction using ethylenecarbodiimide-fixed APCs uses both direct and indirect mechanisms of antigen presentation for prevention of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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Department of Microbiology-Immunology and the Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


MHC class II (MHC II)-restricted T cell responses are a common driving force of autoimmune disease. Accordingly, numerous therapeutic strategies target CD4(+) T cells with the hope of attenuating autoimmune responses and restoring self-tolerance. We have previously reported that i.v. treatment with Ag-pulsed, ethylenecarbodiimide (ECDI)-fixed splenocytes (Ag-SPs) is an efficient protocol to induce Ag-specific tolerance for prevention and treatment of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Ag-SPs coupled with peptide can directly present peptide:MHC II complexes to target CD4(+) T cells in the absence of costimulation to induce anergy. However, Ag-SPs coupled with whole protein also efficiently attenuates Ag-specific T cell responses suggesting the potential contribution of alternative indirect mechanisms/interactions between the Ag-SPs and target CD4(+) T cells. Thus, we investigated whether MHC II compatibility was essential to the underlying mechanisms by which Ag-SP induces tolerance during autoimmune disease. Using MHC-deficient, allogeneic, and/or syngeneic donor Ag-SPs, we show that MHC compatibility between the Ag-SP donor and the host is not required for tolerance induction. Interestingly, we found that ECDI treatment induces apoptosis of the donor cell population which promotes uptake and reprocessing of donor cell peptides by host APCs resulting in the apparent MHC II-independent induction of tolerance. However, syngeneic donor cells are more efficient at inducing tolerance, suggesting that Ag-SPs induce functional Ag-SP tolerance via both direct and indirect (cross-tolerance) mechanisms leading to prevention and effective treatment of autoimmune disease.

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