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J Immunol. 2010 Feb 15;184(4):2204-10. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900709. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

Evidence for molecular mimicry between human T cell epitopes in rotavirus and pancreatic islet autoantigens.

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Autoimmunity and Transplantation Division, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


In type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells in the islets of the pancreas are destroyed by autoreactive T cells. Rotavirus (RV) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. Peptides in VP7, a major immunogenic protein of RV, have high sequence similarity to T cell epitope peptides in the islet autoantigens tyrosine phosphatase-like insulinoma Ag 2 (IA2) and glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65). We aimed to educe evidence for the hypothesis that molecular mimicry with RV promotes autoimmunity to islet autoantigens. Peptides in RV and their sequence-similar counterparts in IA2 and GAD65 were assayed for binding to HLA molecules associated with type 1 diabetes and for the ability to elicit T cell proliferative responses in HLA-typed individuals. T cells expanded or cloned to epitopes in IA2 or RV were then tested for cross-reactivity with these epitopes. Peptides in RV-VP7, similar to T cell epitopes in IA2 and GAD65, bound strongly to HLA-DRB1*04 molecules that confer susceptibility to type 1 diabetes and were also T cell epitopes in humans at risk for type 1 diabetes. The proliferative responses of T cells to the similar peptides in RV and islet autoantigens were significantly correlated. T cells expanded to the IA2 epitope could be restimulated to express IFN-gamma by the similar peptide in RV-VP7, and T cell clones generated to this RV-VP7 peptide cross-reacted with the IA2 epitope. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that molecular mimicry with RV could promote autoimmunity to islet Ags.

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