A viral epitope that mimics a self antigen can accelerate but not initiate autoimmune diabetes

J Clin Invest. 2004 Nov;114(9):1290-8. doi: 10.1172/JCI22557.


We document here that infection of prediabetic mice with a virus expressing an H-2Kb-restricted mimic ligand to a self epitope present on beta cells accelerates the development of autoimmune diabetes. Immunization with the mimic ligand expanded autoreactive T cell populations, which was followed by their trafficking to the islets, as visualized in situ by tetramer staining. In contrast, the mimic ligand did not generate sufficient autoreactive T cells in naive mice to initiate disease. Diabetes acceleration did not occur in H-2Kb-deficient mice or in mice tolerized to the mimic ligand. Thus, arenavirus-expressed mimics of self antigens accelerate a previously established autoimmune process. Sequential heterologous viral infections might therefore act in concert to precipitate clinical autoimmune disease, even if single exposure to a viral mimic does not always cause sufficient tissue destruction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / chemistry*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epitopes / chemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Transgenes


  • Autoantigens
  • Blood Glucose
  • Cytokines
  • Epitopes
  • Ligands