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Immune Netw. 2014 Feb;14(1):7-13. doi: 10.4110/in.2014.14.1.7. Epub 2014 Feb 21.

Potential role of bacterial infection in autoimmune diseases: a new aspect of molecular mimicry.

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Department of Immunology and Molecular Microbiology, Dental research Institute, Seoul National University School of Dentistry, Seoul 110-749, Korea.


Molecular mimicry is an attractive mechanism for triggering autoimmunity. In this review, we explore the potential role of evolutionary conserved bacterial proteins in the production of autoantibodies with focus on granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Seven autoantigens characterized in GPA and RA were BLASTed against a bacterial protein database. Of the seven autoantigens, proteinase 3, type II collagen, binding immunoglobulin protein, glucose-6-phosphate isomerase, α-enolase, and heterogeneous nuclear ribonuclear protein have well-conserved bacterial orthologs. Importantly, those bacterial orthologs are also found in human-associated bacteria. The wide distribution of the highly conserved stress proteins or enzymes among the members of the normal flora and common infectious microorganisms raises a new question on how cross-reactive autoantibodies are not produced during the immune response to these bacteria in most healthy people. Understanding the mechanisms that deselect auto-reactive B cell clones during the germinal center reaction to homologous foreign antigens may provide a novel strategy to treat autoimmune diseases.


Autoantigens; Bacterial orthologs; Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Molecular mimicry; Rheumatoid arthritis

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