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J Immunol. 2008 Jul 1;181(1):136-45.

Retrogenic modeling of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis associates T cell frequency but not TCR functional affinity with pathogenicity.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


The properties of a self-specific T cell's TCR that determine its pathogenicity are not well understood. We developed TCR retroviral transgenic, or retrogenic, models of myelin oligodendroglial glycoprotein (MOG)-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) to compare the pathologic potential of five H-2 Ab/MOG35-55-specific TCRs. The TCRs were cloned and retrovirally transduced into either TCRalphabeta-deficient hybridoma cells or Rag1-/- bone marrow progenitor cells. Comparison of the hybridomas, identical except for TCR sequence, revealed distinct responsiveness, or functionally determined affinity, for cognate Ag. Retrogenic mice were produced by transfer of transduced progenitor cells into Rag1-/- recipients. T cells were detected within 4 wk. Engraftment levels varied considerably among the different TCRs and showed separate variability among individual mice. T cells were predominantly naive and virtually exclusively CD4+ and CD25-. Relative responses of the retrogenic T cells to Ag paralleled those of the hybridoma cells. Induction of EAE through active immunization led to rapid and severe disease in all mice expressing MOG-specific TCR. The mice additionally developed spontaneous disease, the incidence of which varied with the individual receptors. Interestingly, spontaneous disease frequency and intensity could not be correlated with the functional affinity of the respective TCR. Instead, it was associated with engraftment level, even when measured weeks before the onset of disease symptoms. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using retrogenic modeling to compare TCRs in the EAE system. They further suggest that affinity is not a primary determinant in spontaneous EAE development in mice expressing monotypic TCRs and that autoreactive T cell frequency is of greater significance.

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