Structural and functional identification of major histocompatibility complex class i-restricted self-peptides as naturally occurring molecular mimics of viral antigens - possible role in cd8(+) t cell-mediated, virus-induced autoimmune disease
Structural similarity (molecular mimicry) between viral epitopes and self-peptides can lead to the induction of autoaggressive CD4(+) as well as CD8(+) T cell responses. Based on the flexibility of T cell receptor/antigen/major histocompatibility complex recognition, it has been proposed that a self-peptide could replace a viral epitope for T cell recognition and therefore participate in pathophysiological processes in which T cells are involved. To address this issue, we used, as a molecular model of viral antigen, the H-2D(b)-restricted immunodominant epitope nucleoprotein (NP)-(396-404) (FQPQNGQFI) of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). We identified peptide sequences from murine self-proteins that share structural and functional homology with LCMV NP-(396-404) and that bound to H-2D(b) with high affinity. One of these self-peptides, derived from tumor necrosis factor receptor I (FGPSNWHFM, amino acids 302-310), maintained LCMV-specific CD8(+) T cells in an active state as observed both in vitro in cytotoxic assays and in vivo in a model of virus-induced autoimmune diabetes, the rat insulin promoter-LCMV NP transgenic mouse. The natural occurrence and molecular concentration at the surface of H-2(b) spleen cells of tumor necrosis factor receptor I-(302-310) were determined by on-line micro-high pressure liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and supported its biological relevance.