Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome is an autoimmune disease characterized by inaugural uveomeningitidis and hearing loss and at late stages a depigmentation in eyes and skin. Melanocytes are the cells common to the four affected tissues, namely eye, brain, inner ear, and skin. Melanocytes are therefore considered as the source of self-antigens. The melanocytic proteins tyrosinase-related protein-1 (TRP1), TRP2, tyrosinase, and gp100 have been proposed as the proteins targeted by autoreactive T cells from VKH patients bearing human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1*04:05, the HLA allele classically associated with VKH disease. The objective of this work was to determine the antigens recognized by a large number of potentially autoreactive CD4 T lymphocytes obtained from the cerebrospinal fluid of one VKH patient who did not express HLA-DRB1*04:05.
T cells were isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid of a newly diagnosed HLA-DRB1*14:01,*15:03;-DPB1*01:01,*04:02 patient in the acute phase of the VKH disease and cloned by limiting dilution. Each of the 107 T cell clones, of which 90% were CD4+, was tested for its ability to secrete cytokines upon contact with autologous antigen-presenting cells loaded with either of the melanocytic proteins TRP1, TRP2, tyrosinase, gp100, Melan-A and KU-MEL-1. The sensitivity of our recombinant bacteria-based approach was validated with a CD4 T cell clone with known antigen specificity. The ability of each of the 107 clones to secrete cytokines upon nonspecific stimulation was verified.
None of the 107 T cell clones was able to secrete tumor necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ, interleukin (IL)-5, or IL-17 upon contact with autologous B cells loaded with any of the six common melanocytic proteins. Nine clones secreted high-level IL-17 upon stimulation with beads coated with antibodies.
The self-antigens that triggered the VKH disease in this patient probably derive from proteins other than the six melanocytic proteins mentioned above. Further study of antigens that are recognized by potential autoreactive T cells from VKH patients is likely to benefit from testing a broader set of melanocytic proteins.