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J Immunol. 2008 Sep 1;181(5):3202-11.

Myelin-reactive type B T cells and T cells specific for low-affinity MHC-binding myelin peptides escape tolerance in HLA-DR transgenic mice.

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Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249.


Genes of the MHC show the strongest genetic association with multiple sclerosis (MS), but the underlying mechanisms have remained unresolved. In this study, we asked whether the MS-associated MHC class II molecules, HLA-DRB1*1501, HLA-DRB5*0101, and HLA-DRB1*0401, contribute to autoimmune CNS demyelination by promoting pathogenic T cell responses to human myelin basic protein (hMBP), using three transgenic (Tg) mouse lines expressing these MHC molecules. Unexpectedly, profound T cell tolerance to the high-affinity MHC-binding hMBP82-100 epitope was observed in all Tg mouse lines. T cell tolerance to hMBP82-100 was abolished upon back-crossing the HLA-DR Tg mice to MBP-deficient mice. In contrast, T cell tolerance was incomplete for low-affinity MHC-binding hMBP epitopes. Furthermore, hMBP82-100-specific type B T cells escaped tolerance in HLA-DRB5*0101 Tg mice. Importantly, T cells specific for low-affinity MHC-binding hMBP epitopes and hMBP82-100-specific type B T cells were highly encephalitogenic. Collectively, the results show that MS-associated MHC class II molecules are highly efficient at inducing T cell tolerance to high-affinity MHC-binding epitope, whereas autoreactive T cells specific for the low-affinity MHC-binding epitopes and type B T cells can escape the induction of T cell tolerance and may promote MS.

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