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Clin Exp Immunol. 1997 May;108(2):204-12.

Characterization of T cells specific for an epitope of human 60-kD heat shock protein (hsp) in patients with Behcet's disease (BD) in Japan.

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Institute of Medical Science, Department of Immunology, St Marianna University School of Medicine, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.


BD is prevalent in the area of the Silk Route. It has been shown that hsp are involved in the T cell activation in patients with BD in the UK, where this disease has developed sporadically. We have thus examined whether the T cell response to the hsp-derived peptides may be induced in patients with BD in Japan, an east pole of the Silk Route. As with patients in the UK, the human 60-kD hsp peptide 336-351 also yielded vigorous proliferation of T cells in Japanese patients with BD, but neither in normal subjects nor in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA); there was significant association between proliferation by this peptide and the presence of ocular lesion, but not any other symptoms of BD. To clarify whether the peptide stimulates T cells as a polyclonal activator, a specific antigen or a superantigen-like substance, we analysed T cell receptor (TCR) usage of responding T cells by means of MoAbs specific for TCR Vbeta subfamily and polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP)-based technique. We found that T cells with certain TCR Vbeta subfamilies (including Vbeta5.2-3, 8, 13.6, 18, 21.3) were increased in circulation and responded to the hsp peptide in an antigen-specific fashion. In addition, TCR Vbeta gene-amplified products of freshly isolated T cells of patients with BD formed several bands in the PCR-SSCP analysis; some of them became prominent after stimulation with the peptide. This suggests that T cells in patients with this disease have already been expanded oligoclonally in vivo, which may be a result of stimulation by triggering antigens, including the hsp peptide. In addition, hsp peptide stimulation induced proinflammatory cytokine mRNA expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, including IL-8, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and TNF-beta in eight out of eight patients studied. Taken together, the results suggest that hsp antigen may play a role in the pathogenesis of BD, not only in the area of the Silk Route, but also outside the Silk Route area.

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