T cell-mediated hypersensitivity to metal cations is common in humans. How the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) recognizes these cations bound to a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) protein and self-peptide is unknown. Individuals carrying the MHCII allele, HLA-DP2, are at risk for chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a debilitating inflammatory lung condition caused by the reaction of CD4 T cells to inhaled beryllium. We show here that the T cell ligand is created when a Be2+ cation becomes buried in an HLA-DP2/peptide complex, where it is coordinated by both MHC and peptide acidic amino acids. Surprisingly, the TCR does not interact with the Be2+ itself, but rather with surface changes induced by the firmly bound Be2+ and an accompanying Na+ cation. Thus, CBD, by creating a new antigen by indirectly modifying the structure of pre-existing self MHC-peptide complex, lies on the border between allergic hypersensitivity and autoimmunity.
Most systemic autoimmune diseases occur more frequently in females than in males. This is particularly evident in Sjögren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis (SLE) and thyroid autoimmunity, where the ratio of females to males ranges from 20:1 to 8:1. Our understanding of the etiology of SLE implies important roles for genetics, environmental factors and sex hormones, but the relative significance of each remains unknown. Using the New Zealand hybrid mouse model system of SLE we present here a new fetal liver chimera-based system in which we can segregate effects of immune system genes from that of sex hormones in vivo. We show that female hematopoietic cells express an intrinsic capacity to drive lupus-like disease in both male and female recipient mice, suggesting that this capacity is hormone independent. Particularly, only chimeric mice with a female hematopoietic system showed significantly increased numbers of germinal center B cells, memory B cells and plasma cells followed by a spontaneous loss of tolerance to nuclear components and hence elevated serum anti-nuclear autoantibodies. A protective effect of testosterone was noted with regards to disease onset, not disease incidence. Thus, genetic factors encoded within the female hematopoietic system can effectively drive lupus-like disease even in male recipients.
Autoimmunity; genetic; sex hormone; hematopoiesis; autoantibody; interferon-alpha
The strong association between particular MHCII alleles and type 1 diabetes is not fully understood. Two ideas that have been considered for many years are that autoimmunity is driven by (1) low-affinity CD4+ T cells that escape thymic negative selection and respond to certain autoantigen peptides that are particularly well presented by particular MHCII molecules, or (2) CD4+ T cells responding to neoantigens that are absent in the thymus, but uniquely created in the target tissue in the periphery and presented by particular MHCII alleles. Here we discuss the recent structural data in favor of the second idea. We review studies suggesting that peptide antigens recognized by autoimmune T cells are uniquely proteolytically processed and/or posttranslationally modified in the target tissue, thus allowing these T cells to escape deletion in the thymus during T-cell development. We postulate that an encounter with these tissue-specific neoantigenic peptides presented by the particular susceptible MHCII alleles in the peripheral tissues when accompanied by the appropriate inflammatory milieu activates these T-cell escapees leading to the onset of autoimmune disease.
Autoimmunity may be driven by CD4+ T cells responding to neoantigens that are absent in the thymus, but uniquely created in a peripheral target tissue and presented by particular MHCII alleles.
T cells bearing receptors made up of α and β chains (TCRs) usually react with peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex proteins (MHC). This bias could be imposed by positive selection, the phenomenon that selects thymocytes to mature into T cells only if the TCRs they bear react with low but appreciable affinity with MHC + peptide combinations in the thymus cortex. However, it is also possible that the polypeptides of TCRs themselves do not have random specificities but rather are biased toward reaction with MHC. Evolution would therefore have selected for a collection of TCR variable elements that are prone to react with MHC. If this were to be so, positive selection would act on thymocytes bearing a pre biased collection of TCRs to pick out those that react to some extent, but not too well, with self MHC + self-peptides. A problem with studies of this evolutionary idea is the fact that there are many TCR variable elements and that these differ considerably in the amino acids with which they contact MHC. However, recent experiments by our group and others suggest that one group of TCR variable elements, those related to the mouse Vβ8 family, has amino acids in their CDR2 regions that consistently bind a particular site on an MHC α-helix. Other groups of variable elements may use different patterns of amino acids to achieve the same goal. Mutation of these amino acids reduces the ability of T cells and thymocytes to react with MHC. These amino acids are present in the variable regions of distantly related species such as sharks and human. Overall the data indicate that TCR elements have indeed been selected by evolution to react with MHC proteins. Many mysteries about TCRs remain to be solved, including the nature of auto-recognition, the basis of MHC allele specificity, and the very nature and complexity of TCRs on mature T cells.
comparative immunology; T cells; T-cell receptors; thymus
T cell recognition of foreign peptide antigen and tolerance to self peptides is key to the proper function of the immune system. Usually, in the thymus T cells that recognize self MHC + self peptides are deleted and those with the potential to recognize self MHC + foreign peptides are selected to mature. However there are exceptions to these rules. Autoimmunity and allergy are two of the most common immune diseases that can be related to recognition of self. Many genes work together to lead to autoimmunity. Of those, particular MHC alleles are the most strongly associated, reflecting the key importance of MHC presentation of self peptides in autoimmunity. T cells specific for combinations of self MHC and self peptides may escape thymus deletion, and thus be able to drive autoimmunity, for several reasons: the relevant self peptide may be presented at low abundance in the thymus but at high level in particular peripheral tissues; the relevant self peptide may bind to MHC in an unusual register, not present in the thymus but apparent elsewhere; finally the relevant self peptide may be post translationally modified in a tissue specific fashion. In some types of allergy, the peptide + MHC combination may also be fully derived from self. However the combination in question may be modified by the presence of other ligands, such as small drug molecules or metal ions. Thus these types of allergies may act like the post translationally modified peptides involved some types of autoimmunity.
altered self; neoantigen; antigen presenting; T cell recognition; autoimmunity; allergy; diabetes; dermatitis; drug hypersensitivity
“A significant body of research suggests roles for sex hormones as well as genetic factors in the development and/or progression of autoimmunity.”
age-associated B cells; autoimmunity; TLR7; women; X chromosome
Although autoantibodies are the hallmarks of most autoimmune diseases, the mechanisms by which autoreactive B cells are generated and accumulate are still poorly understood. Overexpression of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) that recognizes single-stranded RNAs has been implicated in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), although the cellular mechanism by which this receptor drives the disease is unknown. We recently identified a population of CD11c+ age-associated B cells (ABCs) which is driven by TLR7 signaling, secretes autoantibodies and appears in autoimmune-prone mice by the time of onset of autoimmunity. Mice lacking the Mer receptor develop autoantibodies and splenomegaly similar to other mouse models of SLE. Here, we show that Mer−/− mice that lack TLR7 fail to develop anti-chromatin IgG antibodies, perhaps because they also fail to develop ABCs. Moreover, depletion of CD11c+ ABCs from Mer−/− mice leads to rapid reduction in autoantibodies. Together, these data strongly suggest that ABCs and/or their descendants are the primary source of autoantibodies in Mer−/− mice and that TLR7 signaling is crucial for accumulation of ABCs and development of autoantibodies. These data demonstrate for the first time that TLR7, and not TLR9, is responsible for generation of anti-chromatin IgG antibodies in Mer−/− mice.
Mer receptor tyrosine kinase; Age-associated B cells; Toll-like receptor 7; Autoantibodies
Ikaros is important in the development and maintenance of the lymphoid system, functioning in part by associating with chromatin-remodeling complexes. We have studied the functions of Ikaros in the transition from pre-T cell to the CD4+CD8+ thymocyte using an Ikaros null CD4−CD8− mouse thymoma cell line (JE131). We demonstrate that this cell line carries a single functional TCR β gene rearrangement and expresses a surface pre-TCR. JE131 cells also carry non-functional rearrangements on both alleles of their TCR α loci. Retroviral re-introduction of Ikaros dramatically increased the rate of transcription in the α locus and TCR Vα/Jα recombination resulting in the appearance of many new αβTCR+ cells. The process is RAG dependent, requires SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complexes and is coincident with the binding of Ikaros to the TCR α enhancer. Furthermore, knockdown of Mi2/NuRD complexes increased the frequency of TCR α rearrangement. Our data suggest that Ikaros controls Vα/Jα recombination in T cells by controlling access of the transcription and recombination machinery to the TCR α loci. The JE131 cell line should prove to be a very useful tool for studying the molecular details of this and other processes involved in the pre-T cell to αβTCR+ CD4+CD8+ thymocyte transition.
T Cells; Transcription Factors; T Cell Receptor Genes; VDJ Recombination
Identification of peptides that form complexes with beryllium and class II HLA molecules and are recognized by CD4+ T cells from patients with chronic beryllium disease.
Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a granulomatous disorder characterized by an influx of beryllium (Be)-specific CD4+ T cells into the lung. The vast majority of these T cells recognize Be in an HLA-DP–restricted manner, and peptide is required for T cell recognition. However, the peptides that stimulate Be-specific T cells are unknown. Using positional scanning libraries and fibroblasts expressing HLA-DP2, the most prevalent HLA-DP molecule linked to disease, we identified mimotopes and endogenous self-peptides that bind to MHCII and Be, forming a complex recognized by pathogenic CD4+ T cells in CBD. These peptides possess aspartic and glutamic acid residues at p4 and p7, respectively, that surround the putative Be-binding site and cooperate with HLA-DP2 in Be coordination. Endogenous plexin A peptides and proteins, which share the core motif and are expressed in lung, also stimulate these TCRs. Be-loaded HLA-DP2–mimotope and HLA-DP2–plexin A4 tetramers detected high frequencies of CD4+ T cells specific for these ligands in all HLA-DP2+ CBD patients tested. Thus, our findings identify the first ligand for a CD4+ T cell involved in metal-induced hypersensitivity and suggest a unique role of these peptides in metal ion coordination and the generation of a common antigen specificity in CBD.
Various populations of memory phenotype CD8+ T cells have been described over the last 15–20 years, all of which possess elevated effector functions relative to naïve phenotype cells. Using a technique for isolating antigen specific cells from unprimed hosts, we recently identified a new subset of cells, specific for nominal antigen, but phenotypically and functionally similar to memory cells arising as a result of homeostatic proliferation (HP). We show here that these “Virtual Memory” cells are independent of previously identified “innate memory” cells, arising as a result of their response to IL-15 trans-presentation by lymphoid tissue-resident CD8α+ DCs in the periphery. The absence of IL-15, CD8+ T cell expression of either CD122 or Eomes, or of CD8a+ DCs all lead to the loss of Virtual Memory cells in the host. Our results show that CD8+ T cell homeostatic expansion is an active process within the non-lymphopenic environment, is mediated by IL-15, and produces antigen inexperienced memory cells which retain the capacity to respond to nominal antigen with memory-like function. Preferential engagement of these “Virtual Memory” T cells into a vaccine response could dramatically enhance the rate by which immune protection develops.
Influenza virus poses a difficult challenge for protective immunity. This virus is adept at altering its surface proteins, the proteins that are the targets of neutralizing antibody. Consequently, each year a new vaccine must be developed to combat the current recirculating strains. A universal influenza vaccine that primes specific memory cells that recognise conserved parts of the virus could prove to be effective against both annual influenza variants and newly emergent potentially pandemic strains. Such a vaccine will have to contain a safe and effective adjuvant that can be used in individuals of all ages. We examine protection from viral challenge in mice vaccinated with the nucleoprotein from the PR8 strain of influenza A, a protein that is highly conserved across viral subtypes. Vaccination with nucleoprotein delivered with a universally used and safe adjuvant, composed of insoluble aluminium salts, provides protection against viruses that either express the same or an altered version of nucleoprotein. This protection correlated with the presence of nucleoprotein specific CD8 T cells in the lungs of infected animals at early time points after infection. In contrast, immunization with NP delivered with alum and the detoxified LPS adjuvant, monophosphoryl lipid A, provided some protection to the homologous viral strain but no protection against infection by influenza expressing a variant nucleoprotein. Together, these data point towards a vaccine solution for all influenza A subtypes.
The Ikaros family of transcription factors is critical for normal T cell development while limiting malignant transformation. Mature CD8 T cells express multiple Ikaros family members, yet little is known about their function in this context. To test the functions of this gene family, we used retroviral transduction to express a naturally occurring, dominant negative (DN) isoform of Ikaros in activated CD8 T cells. Notably, expression of DN Ikaros profoundly enhanced the competitive advantage of activated CD8 T cells cultured in IL-12, such that by 6 days of culture, DN Ikaros-transduced cells were 100-fold more abundant than control cells. Expression of a DN isoform of Helios, a related Ikaros-family transcription factor, conferred a similar advantage to transduced cells in IL-12. While DN Ikaros-transduced cells had higher expression of the IL-2 receptor alpha chain, DN Ikaros-transduced cells achieved their competitive advantage through an IL-2 independent mechanism. Finally, the competitive advantage of DN Ikaros-transduced cells was manifested in vivo, following adoptive transfer of transduced cells. These data identify the Ikaros family of transcription factors as regulators of cytokine responsiveness in activated CD8 T cells, and suggest a role for this family in influencing effector and memory CD8 T cell differentiation.
Mucosal-associated invariant T cells are a unique population of T cells that express a semi-invariant αβ TCR and are restricted by the MHC class I-related molecule MR1. MAIT cells recognize uncharacterized ligand(s) presented by MR1 through the cognate interaction between their TCR and MR1. To understand how the MAIT TCR recognizes MR1 at the surface of APCs cultured both with and without bacteria, we undertook extensive mutational analysis of both the MAIT TCR and MR1 molecule. We found differential contribution of particular amino acids to the MAIT TCR-MR1 interaction based upon the presence of bacteria, supporting the hypothesis that the structure of the MR1 molecules with the microbial-derived ligand(s) differs from the one with the endogenous ligand(s). Furthermore, we demonstrate that microbial-derived ligand(s) is resistant to proteinase K digestion and does not extract with common lipids, suggesting an unexpected class of antigen(s) might be recognized by this unique lymphocyte population.
αβ T cell receptors (TCRs) bind specifically to foreign antigens presented by major histocompatibility complex proteins (MHC) or MHC-like molecules. Accumulating evidence indicates that the germline-encoded TCR segments have features that promote binding to MHC and MHC-like molecules, suggesting co-evolution between TCR and MHC molecules. Here, we assess directly the evolutionary conservation of αβ TCR specificity for MHC. Sequence comparisons showed that some Vβs from distantly related jawed vertebrates share amino acids in their complementarity determining region 2 (CDR2). Chimeric TCRs containing amphibian, bony fish or cartilaginous fish Vβs can recognize antigens presented by mouse MHC class II and CD1d (an MHC-like protein), and this recognition is dependent upon the shared CDR2 amino acids. These results indicate that features of the TCR that control specificity for MHC and MHC-like molecules were selected early in evolution and maintained between species that last shared a common ancestor over 400 million years ago.
The T cell response to B cell lymphomas differs from the majority of solid tumors in that the malignant cells themselves are derived from B lymphocytes, key players in immune response. B cell lymphomas are therefore well situated to manipulate their surrounding microenvironment to enhance tumor growth and minimize anti-tumor T cell responses. We analyzed the effect of T cells on the growth of a transplantable B cell lymphoma and found that iNKT cells suppressed the anti-tumor CD8+ T cell response. Lymphoma cells transplanted into syngeneic wild type (WT) mice or Jalpha18−/− mice that specifically lack iNKT cells grew initially at the same rate, but only the mice lacking iNKT cells were able to reject the lymphoma. This effect was due to the enhanced activity of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells in the absence of iNKT cells, and could be partially reversed by reconstitution of iNKT cells in Jalpha 18−/− mice. Treatment of tumor-bearing WT mice with alpha -galactosyl ceramide, an activating ligand for iNKT cells, reduced the number of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells. In contrast, lymphoma growth in CD1d1−/− mice that lack both iNKT and type II NKT cells was similar to that in WT mice, suggesting that type II NKT cells are required for full activation of the anti-tumor immune response. This study reveals a tumor-promoting role for iNKT cells and suggests their capacity to inhibit the CD8+ T cell response to B cell lymphoma by opposing the effects of type II NKT cells.
The antigen receptor for natural killer T cells (NKT TCR) bind CD1d-restricted microbial and self lipid antigens, although the molecular basis of self-CD1d recognition is unclear. Here, we have characterized NKT TCR recognition of CD1d molecules loaded with natural self-antigens (Ags), and report the 2.3 Å resolution structure of an autoreactive NKT TCR-phosphatidylinositol-CD1d complex. NKT TCR recognition of self and foreign antigens was underpinned by a similar mode of germline-encoded recognition of CD1d. However, NKT TCR autoreactivity is mediated by unique sequences within the non-germline encoded CDR3β loop encoding for a hydrophobic motif that promotes self-association with CD1d. Accordingly, NKT cell autoreactivity may arise from the inherent affinity of the interaction between CD1d and the NKT TCR, resulting in the recognition of a broad range of CD1d restricted self-antigens. This demonstrates that multiple self-antigens can be recognized in a similar manner by autoreactive NKT TCRs.
CD4 T cell help for B cells is critical for effective antibody responses. While many of the molecules involved in helper functions of naïve CD4 T cells have been characterized, much less is known about the helper capabilities of memory CD4 T cells, an important consideration for the design of vaccines that aim to prime protective memory CD4 T cells. Here we demonstrate that mouse memory CD4 T cells enable B cells to expand more rapidly and class switch earlier than primary responding CD4 T cells. This accelerated response does not require large numbers of memory cells and similar numbers of primary responding cells provide less effective help than memory cells. However, only memory CD4 T cells that express the B cell follicle homing molecule, CXCR5, are able to accelerate the response. Therefore, the rapidity of the antibody response depends on the ability of CD4 memory T cells to migrate quickly towards B cells.
Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHCI) and MHCII proteins differ in structure and sequence. To understand how T cell receptors (TCRs) can use the same set of variable regions to bind both proteins, we have presented the first comparison of a single TCR bound to both MHCI and MHCII ligands. The TCR adopts similar orientations on both ligands with TCR amino acids thought to be evolutionarily conserved for MHC interaction occupying similar positions on the MHCI and MHCII helices. However, the TCR antigen-binding loops use different conformations when interacting with each ligand. Most importantly, we observed alternate TCR core conformations. When bound to MHCI, but not MHCII, Vα disengages from the Jα β-strand, switching Vα’s position relative to Vβ. In several other structures either Vα or Vβ undergoes this same modification. Thus, both TCR V-domains can switch among alternate conformations, perhaps extending their ability to react with different MHC-peptide ligands.
Autoimmunity is controlled both by the environment and by genetic factors. One of the most well defined genetic factors is polymorphisms, with some alleles of particular genes promoting autoimmune diseases, whereas other alleles either not affecting susceptibility to disease or, in some cases actually inhibiting the appearance of such illnesses. Another genetically controlled factor, gender, also plays a profound role in the incidence of autoimmune diseases. For example, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) occurs much more frequently in females than in males in both mice and man. The genetic differences that make some individuals susceptible to autoimmunity and protect others could act in many ways and affect many tissues. In this review we will discuss how gender may act on the cells of the immune system and thereby influence the predisposition of the host to autoimmune diseases.
autoimmunity; sex hormones; X chromosome; TLR7
Autoreactive CD4+ T cells are involved in the pathogenesis of many autoimmune diseases, but the antigens that stimulate their responses have been difficult to identify and in most cases are not well defined. In the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of type 1 diabetes (T1D), we have identified a peptide WE14 from chromogranin A (ChgA) as the antigen for highly diabetogenic CD4+ T cell clones. Truncation and extension analysis showed that WE14 binds to the NOD mouse MHCII molecule, I-Ag7, in an atypical manner, occupying only the C-terminal half of the I-Ag7 peptide-binding groove. This finding extends the list of T cell antigens in T1D and supports the idea that autoreactive T cells respond to unusually presented self-peptides.
Alpha/beta T cell receptors (TCRs) react with major histocompatibility complex proteins (MHC) plus peptides, a poorly understood phenomenon, probably because thymocytes bearing TCRs that manifest MHC-reactivity too well are lost by negative selection. Only TCRs with attenuated ability to react with MHC appear on mature T cells. Also, the interaction sites between TCRs and MHC may be inherently flexible and hence difficult to spot. Contacts between TCRs and MHC in the solved structures of their complexes were reevaluated with these points in mind. The results show that frequently used amino acids in TCR CDR1 and CDR2 regions are often used to bind MHC, in areas around small amino acids on the surfaces of MHC α helices that form a cup, allowing somewhat flexible binding of the TCRs. The TCR amino acids involved are specific to families of V regions and partially different rules govern recognition of MHC1 versus MHCII.
T cell receptor; MHC; evolution; conserved interactions; tolerance; selection; major histocompatibility complex
We report here the identification of GIDE, a mitochondrially located E3 ubiquitin ligase. GIDE contains a C-terminal Ring finger domain, which is mostly conserved with those of the IAP family members, and which is required for its E3 ligase activity. Overexpression of GIDE induces apoptosis via a pathway involving activation of caspases since the caspase inhibitors, XIAP and an inactive mutant of caspase-9 block GIDE-induced apoptosis. GIDE also activates JNK, and blockade of JNK activation inhibits GIDE-induced release of cytochrome c and Smac and apoptosis, suggesting that JNK activation precedes release of cytochrome c and Smac and is required for GIDE-induced apoptosis. These proapoptotic properties of GIDE require its E3 ligase activity. When somewhat over or underexpressed, GIDE slows or hastens cell growth respectively. These pro-apoptotic or growth rate effects of GIDE may account for its absence from tumor cells.
GIDE; apoptosis; E3 ligase; mitochondria; caspase; JNK