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J Immunol. 2012 May 15;188(10):4906-12. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1200493. Epub 2012 Apr 6.

Defective autoimmune regulator-dependent central tolerance to myelin protein zero is linked to autoimmune peripheral neuropathy.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by peripheral nerve demyelination and dysfunction. How the autoimmune response is initiated, identity of provoking Ags, and pathogenic effector mechanisms are not well defined. The autoimmune regulator (Aire) plays a critical role in central tolerance by promoting thymic expression of self-Ags and deletion of self-reactive T cells. In this study, we used mice with hypomorphic Aire function and two patients with Aire mutations to define how Aire deficiency results in spontaneous autoimmune peripheral neuropathy. Autoimmunity against peripheral nerves in both mice and humans targets myelin protein zero, an Ag for which expression is Aire-regulated in the thymus. Consistent with a defect in thymic tolerance, CD4(+) T cells are sufficient to transfer disease in mice and produce IFN-γ in infiltrated peripheral nerves. Our findings suggest that defective Aire-mediated central tolerance to myelin protein zero initiates an autoimmune Th1 effector response toward peripheral nerves.

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