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J Immunol. 2007 Jun 15;178(12):7849-58.

Low-dose peptide tolerance therapy of lupus generates plasmacytoid dendritic cells that cause expansion of autoantigen-specific regulatory T cells and contraction of inflammatory Th17 cells.

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Division of Rheumatology, Departments of Medicine and Microbiology-Immunology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 240 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Subnanomolar doses of an unaltered, naturally occurring nucleosomal histone peptide epitope, H4(71-94), when injected s.c. into lupus-prone mice, markedly prolong lifespan by generating CD4+25+ and CD8+ regulatory T cells (Treg) producing TGF-beta. The induced Treg cells suppress nuclear autoantigen-specific Th and B cells and block renal inflammation. Splenic dendritic cells (DC) captured the s.c.-injected H4(71-94) peptide rapidly and expressed a tolerogenic phenotype. The DC of the tolerized animal, especially plasmacytoid DC, produced increased amounts of TGF-beta, but diminished IL-6 on stimulation via the TLR-9 pathway by nucleosome autoantigen and other ligands; and those plasmacytoid DC blocked lupus autoimmune disease by simultaneously inducing autoantigen-specific Treg and suppressing inflammatory Th17 cells that infiltrated the kidneys of untreated lupus mice. Low-dose tolerance with H4(71-94) was effective even though the lupus immune system is spontaneously preprimed to react to the autoepitope. Thus, H4(71-94) peptide tolerance therapy that preferentially targets pathogenic autoimmune cells could spare lupus patients from chronically receiving toxic agents or global immunosuppressants and maintain remission by restoring autoantigen-specific Treg cells.

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