Molecular mimicry: a critical look at exemplary instances in human diseases

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2000 Apr;57(4):542-51. doi: 10.1007/PL00000716.


Molecular mimicry, the concept that antigenic determinants of microorganisms resemble antigenic determinants of the host, is frequently cited as a plausible mechanism to account for the association of infection and autoimmune disease. Based on analogous sequences of amino acids or on cross-reactions of monoclonal antibodies, numerous examples of such mimicry have been reported. There are, however, no clear examples of a human disease caused by molecular mimicry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Chagas Disease / immunology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / immunology
  • Molecular Mimicry / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • Myocarditis / immunology
  • Rheumatic Fever / immunology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / immunology


  • Autoantigens
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte