Enteroviruses are proposed as initiating factors in the etiology of Type 1 diabetes mellitus (Type 1 DM). Molecular mimicry between the autoantigen glutamic acid decarboxylase 65 (GAD65) and the coxsackievirus B4 (CVB4) nonstructural protein P2C is frequently cited as a mechanism by which this virus triggers the disease, but little is known about the immunogenicity of this viral protein in humans, mainly due to the problem of obtaining highly pure preparations of P2C. We generated large amounts of highly pure, soluble P2C protein, coupled to the fusion partner maltose binding protein (MBP-P2C) using the PMAL-c2 bacterial expression plasmid and a two-step purification system comprising amylose resin and ion exchange. Using purified viral protein we show that specific T-cell responses against P2C are detected in the blood of healthy donors and Type 1 DM patients. Proliferation responses to P2C were detected only in subjects also demonstrating T-cell proliferation to CVB4 Vero cell lysates. However, in additional cases T-cell responses to P2C were detectable through the release of interferon-gamma or interleukin-4 in individuals who did not make proliferative responses. Taken together, our data show that the P2C nonstructural protein of CVB4 is targeted by T cells during the antiviral immune response and may trigger the production of T helper 1 and T helper 2 cytokines. The availability of pure, immunogenic P2C should allow the putative role of antiviral responses in the development of autoimmune diabetes to be investigated.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.