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Aim: This study was designed to examine the immunogenetic basis for shared autoimmunity, resulting in autoantigen presentation that leads to the production of two or more disease-specific autoantibodies.
Methods: A bioinformatics approach based on peptide binding predictions to disease-associated HLA determinants has been developed and tested here using 11 disease associations between autoimmune systemic and mucocutaneous blistering disorders. Various HLAs associated with antigens within a given “disease model” (set of HLA class II and protein sequences known to be associated with a specific autoimmune disease) were tested and ranked against the antigenic proteins, first with proteins they are known to associate with and then with proteins known to be implicated in a second disease model. In every case binding predictions were compared for different proteins binding to the same HLA. Subsequently, disease-related autoantigens have been tested for their binding affinity against each disease-specific HLA class II protein.
Results: For a single HLA haplotype, several binders have been generated from a related autoantigen with the variable binding score. In most cases, the binding score corresponding to the interactions between the autoantigen-derived epitope and the HLA associated with one disease was similar or lower than the interactions between the epitope from proteins associated with the second disease and the same HLA. Notably, there was no compelling promiscuity in peptide binding to each of the HLA molecules, in spite of the promiscuous nature of HLA class II binding.
Conclusions: The data suggest that, in susceptible individuals, shared autoimmunity might be initiated by two types of HLA/peptide interaction; first between an autoantigen-derived epitope and its disease-associated HLA molecules, and second, between a different peptide of the same autoantigen and HLA proteins specific for the second disease.
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