The shared epitope (SE) - an HLA-DRB1-encoded 5-amino acid sequence motif carried by the vast majority of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients - is a risk factor for severe disease. The mechanistic basis of RA-SE association is unknown. This group has previously demonstrated that the SE acts as a signal transduction ligand that activates nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species production. SE-activated signaling depends on cell surface calreticulin, a known innate immunity receptor previously implicated in immune regulation, autoimmunity and angiogenesis. Recent evidence that the SE enhances the polarization of Th17 cells, which is a key mechanism in autoimmunity, is discussed highlighting one of several potential functional effects of the SE in RA.
Copyright © 2011 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.