Coxsackie B viruses (CBV) have been indicated as environmental triggers initiating autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells, and molecular mimicry might be the mechanism. A prime candidate for inducing cross-reactive immune responses is a homology sequence, PEVKEK, found both in CBV4 2C protein and in GAD65. To characterize the CBV4-specific T-cell epitopes, overlapping peptides covering the 2C protein were synthesized and CBV4-specific T-cell lines were established from healthy and diabetic subjects. The T-cell epitopes were dependent on the HLA-DR genotype of the T-cell donor, but no difference between diabetic and healthy subjects could be detected. Peptide p4, which included the PEVKEK sequence, contained an HLA-DR1-restricted T-cell epitope. Three randomly selected CBV4-specific T-cell lines, which responded to peptide p4, failed to recognize GAD65 protein or GAD65 peptides containing the PEVKEK sequence. We conclude that the CBV4 2C protein is strongly immunogenic for T-cells and PEVKEK is included in a T-cell epitope. However, presentation of this epitope in the context of neutral HLA-DR1 allele does not support its role in pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.