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Immunol Lett. 2013 Apr;152(1):25-31. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2013.03.005. Epub 2013 Apr 8.

The role of citrullination of an immunodominant proteoglycan (PG) aggrecan T cell epitope in BALB/c mice with PG-induced arthritis.

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Department of Genetics, Cell- and Immunobiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary.


The P70-84 peptide (also called 5/4E8 epitope) of the human cartilage proteoglycan (PG) aggrecan is the dominant/arthritogenic epitope in both humans and arthritis-prone BALB/c mice (PG-induced arthritis, PGIA). An elevated T cell reactivity was demonstrated to a citrullinated version of the P70-84 epitope in most of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The goal of this study was to understand better how a T cell epitope, if citrullinated, may affect antigenicity/arthritogenicity in PGIA, a murine model of RA. T cell reactivity to differentially citrullinated versions of either the human PG aggrecan P70-84 peptide or the corresponding mouse sequence was assessed in peptide or aggrecan-immunized and arthritic BALB/c mice as well as in T cell receptor transgenic mice specific for peptide P70-84 sequence. Peripheral T cell responses were induced by priming BALB/c mice with either the human wild-type or its citrullinated versions. Unexpectedly, priming with the citrullinated self-peptide induced a higher T cell response compared to the wild-type sequence (p<0.001), and the citrullination of the human peptide abolished T cell reactivity in PGIA. Our data suggest that T cells reactive to the citrullinated P70-84 peptide escaped thymic selection and are present in the peripheral T cell repertoire. Results of this study provide evidence that citrullination of an immunodominant T cell epitope may substantially alter, either increase or abolish, T cell recognition at the periphery in an experimental model of arthritis.

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