Correlation between chlamydial infection and autoimmune response: molecular mimicry between RNA polymerase major sigma subunit from Chlamydia trachomatis and human L7

European Journal of Immunology
P HemmerichA von Mikecz


L7 is one of the ribosomal proteins frequently targeted by autoantibodies in rheumatic autoimmune diseases. A computer search revealed a region within the immunodominant epitope of L7 (peptide II) that is highly homologous to amino acid sequence 264-286 of the RNA polymerase major sigma factor of the eubacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Anti-L7 autoantibodies affinity purified from the immunodominant epitope were able to recognize this sequence as they reacted with purified recombinant sigma factor. Immunofluorescence labeling experiments on C. trachomatis lysates revealed a punctate staining pattern of numerous spots when incubated with the affinity-purified anti-peptide II autoantibodies. Binding of autoantibodies to peptide II was inhibited by the homologous sigma peptide. This is the first demonstration of epitope mimicry between a human and a chlamydial protein on the level of B cells. Antibody screening revealed a significant correlation between the presence of anti-L7 autoantibodies and C. trachomatis infection in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and mixed connective tissue disease. Our results suggest that molecular mimicry is involved in the initiation of anti-L7 autoantibody response and may represent a first ...Continue Reading


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