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Nature. 1995 Jun 29;375(6534):798-801.

The small heat-shock protein alpha B-crystallin as candidate autoantigen in multiple sclerosis.

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Division of Immunological and Infectious Diseases, TNO Prevention and Health, Leiden, The Netherlands.


The identification of key antigens in human autoimmune diseases is a crucial step towards the development of specific intervention. The autoantigen(s) relevant to multiple sclerosis (MS) probably reside in myelin of the central nervous system, the target of the disease. Here we examine proliferative responses of human peripheral blood T cells to the complete collection of myelin proteins fractionated by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. Myelin isolated from MS-affected brain contained a single protein fraction to which T cells from MS patients and from healthy controls showed dominant responses. This highly immunogenic protein was identified as alpha B-crystallin, a small heat-shock protein. Immunohistochemical examination of MS lesions revealed the presence of oligodendrocytes and astrocytes with raised alpha B-crystallin expression, which were not found in unaffected myelin. Our findings indicate that alpha B-crystallin serves as immunodominant myelin antigen to human T cells when expressed at the elevated levels found in active MS lesions.

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