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FEBS Lett. 2011 Dec 1;585(23):3619-26. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2011.03.035. Epub 2011 Mar 22.

New insights into the functional role of the rheumatoid arthritis shared epitope.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5680, USA.


The shared epitope (SE) - an HLA-DRB1-encoded 5-amino acid sequence motif carried by the vast majority of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients - is a risk factor for severe disease. The mechanistic basis of RA-SE association is unknown. This group has previously demonstrated that the SE acts as a signal transduction ligand that activates nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species production. SE-activated signaling depends on cell surface calreticulin, a known innate immunity receptor previously implicated in immune regulation, autoimmunity and angiogenesis. Recent evidence that the SE enhances the polarization of Th17 cells, which is a key mechanism in autoimmunity, is discussed highlighting one of several potential functional effects of the SE in RA.

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