Background & aims: Celiac disease is a gluten-induced enteropathy that shows a strong association with HLA-DQ2 and -DQ8. Gluten-specific T cells, invariably restricted by DQ2 or DQ8, can be isolated from celiac lesions. Such gut-derived T cells have a preference for recognition of gluten that has been specifically deamidated by tissue transglutaminase. Only a few gliadin T-cell epitopes have been identified by earlier work. The aim of this study was to perform a systematic characterization of DQ2-restricted T-cell epitopes in alpha- and gamma-gliadins.
Methods: Epitopes were identified by mass spectrometry analysis of peptide fragments of recombinant gliadins and by use of synthetic peptides.
Results: We identified several new gamma-gliadin epitopes and an additional alpha-gliadin epitope. Interestingly, these and the previously identified epitopes are not randomly scattered across the gliadins but cluster in regions of the proteins with high content of proline residues.
Conclusions: Several DQ2-restricted T-cell epitopes exist in gliadin that are located in regions rich in proline. This likely reflects epitope selection at the levels of digestive and antigen-presenting cell processing, transglutaminase-mediated deamidation, and/or peptide binding to DQ2.