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T cell cross-reactivity between coxsackievirus and glutamate decarboxylase is associated with a murine diabetes susceptibility allele.


Limited regions of amino acid sequence similarity frequently occur between microbial antigens and host proteins. It has been widely anticipated that during infection such sequence similarities could induce cross-reactive T cell responses, thereby initiating T cell-mediated autoimmune disease. However, the nature of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted antigen presentation confers a number of constraints that should make this type of T cell cross-reactivity a rare, MHC allele-dependent event. We tested this prediction using two insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)-associated antigens, coxsackievirus P2-C (Cox P2-C) protein and glutamate decarboxylase (GAD65), which share a prototypic sequence similarity of six consecutive amino acids within otherwise unrelated proteins. We surveyed a panel of 10 murine MHC class II alleles that encompass the spectrum of standard alleles for the ability to cross-reactively present Cox P2-C and GAD65. Out of the 10 restriction elements tested, the sequence similarity regions were both dominant determinants and were cross-reactively displayed after the natural processing of whole antigens, only in the context of I-Anod. These data show that cross-reactive T cell recognition of sequence similarity regions in unrelated proteins is confined to certain MHC alleles, which may explain MHC association with autoimmune disease. It is striking that these two diabetes-associated antigens were cross-reactively recognized only in the context of a diabetes susceptibility allele. Since the human and the murine class II alleles associated with IDDM share conserved features, cross-reactive T cell recognition of GAD65 and Cox P2-C may contribute to the pathogenesis of human IDDM and account for the epidemiological association of coxsackievirus with IDDM.

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