Apoptotically modified forms of autoantigens have been hypothesized to participate in lupus immunopathogenesis. This study identifies a major B cell epitope present on the apoptotic but not the intact form of the U1-70-kDa ribonucleoprotein lupus autoantigen (70k). Human autoimmune sera with strong recognition of apoptotic 70k and minimal recognition of intact 70k were identified and tested for reactivity to truncated forms of 70k by immunoblot and ELISA. Patient sera that preferentially recognized apoptotic 70k were specific for an epitope dependent on residues 180-205 of the protein. This epitope was also recognized by 19 of 28 (68%) intact anti-70k-positive autoimmune human sera with Abs also recognizing apoptotic but not the intact form 70k, but only 1 of 9 (11%) intact 70k-positive sera without such Abs (Fisher's exact, p = 0.0055). Immunization of HLA-DR4-transgenic C57BL/6 mice with a peptide containing this epitope induced anti-70k immunity in 13 of 15 mice, including Abs recognizing apoptotic but not intact forms of autoantigens in 12 of 15 mice. Anti-70k responder mice also developed spreading of immunity to epitopes on the endogenous form of 70k, and proliferative lung lesions consistent with those described in patients with anti-70k autoimmunity. Thus, a major epitope in the B cell response to U1-70 kDa localizes to the RNA binding domain of the molecule, overlaps with the most common T cell epitope in the anti-70k response, and is not present on the intact form of the 70k molecule. Immunization of mice against this epitope induces an immune response with features seen in human anti-70k autoimmune disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy