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J Autoimmun. 2011 Nov;37(3):254-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2011.07.002. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

HLA-DR3 restricted T cell epitope mimicry in induction of autoimmune response to lupus-associated antigen SmD.

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Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, Division of Nephrology and Center for Immunity, Inflammation and Regenerative Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia, School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Although systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multigenic autoimmune disorder, HLA-D is the most dominant genetic susceptibility locus. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that microbial peptides bind HLA-DR3 and activate T cells reactive with lupus autoantigens. Using HLA-DR3 transgenic mice and lupus-associated autoantigen SmD protein, SmD(79-93) was identified to contain a dominant HLA-DR3 restricted T cell epitope. This T cell epitope was characterized by using a T-T hybridoma, C1P2, generated from SmD immunized HLA-DR3 transgenic mouse. By pattern search analysis, 20 putative mimicry peptides (P2-P21) of SmD(79-93,) from microbial and human origin were identified. C1P2 cells responded to SmD, SmD(79-93) and a peptide (P20) from Vibro cholerae. Immunization of HLA-DR3 mice with P20 induced T cell responses and IgG antibodies to SmD that were not cross-reactive with the immunogen. A T-T hybridoma, P20P1, generated from P20 immunized mice, not only responded to P20 and SmD(79-93), but also to peptides from Streptococcus agalactiae (P17) and human-La related protein (P11). These three T cell mimics (P20, P11 and P17) induced diverse and different autoantibody response profiles. Our data demonstrates for the first time molecular mimicry at T cell epitope level between lupus-associated autoantigen SmD and microbial peptides. Considering that distinct autoreactive T cell clones were activated by different microbial peptides, molecular mimicry at T cell epitope level can be an important pathway for the activation of autoreactive T cells resulting in the production of autoantibodies. In addition, the novel findings reported herein may have significant implications in the pathogenesis of SLE.

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