Human thyroid autoantigens and proteins of Yersinia and Borrelia share amino acid sequence homology that includes binding motifs to HLA-DR molecules and T-cell receptor

Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):225-36. doi: 10.1089/thy.2006.16.225.


We previously reported that the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi could trigger autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD). Subsequently, we showed local amino acid sequence homology between all human thyroid autoantigens (human thyrotropin receptor [hTSH-R], human thyroglobulin [hTg], human thyroperoxidase [hTPO], human sodium iodide symporter [hNIS]) and Borrelia proteins (n = 6,606), and between hTSH-R and Yersinia enterocolitica (n = 1,153). We have now updated our search of homology with Borrelia (n = 11,198 proteins) and extended our search on Yersinia to the entire species (n = 40,964 proteins). We also searched the homologous human and microbial sequences for peptide-binding motifs of HLA-DR molecules, because a number of these class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules (DR3, DR4, DR5, DR8, and DR9) are associated with AITD. Significant homologies were found for only 16 Borrelia proteins (5 with hTSH-R, 2 with hTg, 3 with hTPO, and 6 with hNIS) and only 19 Yersinia proteins (4 with hTSH-R, 2 with hTg, 2 with hTPO, and 11 with hNIS). Noteworthy, segments of thyroid autoantigens homologous to these microbial proteins are known to be autoantigenic. Also, the hTSH-R homologous region of one Borrelia protein (OspA) contains an immunodominant epitope that others have found to be homologous to hLFA-1. This is of interest, as the hLFA-1/ICAM-1 ligand/receptor pair is aberrantly expressed in the follicular cells of thyroids affected by Hashimoto's thyroiditis. A computer-assisted search detected antigenic peptide binding motifs to the DR molecules implicated in AITD. In conclusion, our in silico data do not directly demonstrate that Borrelia and Yersinia proteins trigger AITD but suggest that a restricted number of them might have the potential to, at least in persons with certain HLA-DR alleles.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Autoantigens / chemistry*
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / chemistry*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Iodide Peroxidase / chemistry
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / chemistry*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Symporters / chemistry
  • Thyroglobulin / chemistry
  • Thyroid Gland / immunology*
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / immunology
  • Yersinia / chemistry*


  • Autoantigens
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Symporters
  • sodium-iodide symporter
  • Thyroglobulin
  • Iodide Peroxidase