Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is characterized by an intense biliary inflammatory CD4+ and CD8+ T cell response. Very limited information on autoantigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses is available compared with autoreactive CD4+ T cell responses. Using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from PBC, we identified an HLA-A2-restricted CTL epitope of the E2 component of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2), the immunodominant mitochondrial autoantigen. This peptide, amino acids 159-167 of PDC-E2, induces specific MHC class I-restricted CD8+ CTL lines from 10/12 HLA-A2+ PBC patients, but not controls, after in vitro stimulation with antigen-pulsed dendritic cells (DCs). PDC-E2-specific CTLs could also be generated by pulsing DCs with full-length recombinant PDC-E2 protein. Furthermore, using soluble PDC-E2 complexed with either PDC-E2-specific human monoclonal antibody or affinity-purified autoantibodies against PDC-E2, the generation of PDC-E2-specific CTLs, occurred at 100-fold and 10-fold less concentration, respectively, compared with soluble antigen alone. Collectively, these data demonstrate that autoantibody, helper, and CTL epitopes all contain a shared peptide sequence. The finding that autoantigen-immune complexes can not only cross-present but also that presentation of the autoantigen is of a higher relative efficiency, for the first time defines a unique role for autoantibodies in the pathogenesis of an autoimmune disease.
- Cytotoxic T cells