Human leukocyte antigen-antigen D related (HLA-DR) molecules are highly expressed in synovial tissue (ST), the target of the immune response in chronic inflammatory forms of arthritis. Here, we used LC-MS/MS to identify HLA-DR-presented self-peptides in cells taken directly from clinical samples: ST, synovial fluid mononuclear cells (SFMC), or peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from five patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and eight with Lyme arthritis (LA). We identified 1593 non-redundant HLA-DR-presented peptides, derived from 870 source proteins. A total of 67% of the peptides identified in SFMC and 55% of those found in PBMC were found in ST, but analysis of SFMC/PBMC also revealed new antigen-presented peptides. Peptides were synthesized and examined for reactivity with the patients' PBMC. To date, three autoantigens in RA and four novel autoantigens in LA, presented in ST and/or PBMC, were shown to be targets of T- and B-cell responses in these diseases; ongoing analyses may add to this list. Thus, immunoprecipitation and LC-MS/MS can now identify hundreds of HLA-DR-presented self-peptides from individual patients' tissues or fluids with mixed cell populations. Importantly, identification of HLA-DR-presented peptides from SFMC or PBMC allows testing of more patients, including those early in the disease. Direct analysis of clinical samples facilitates identification of novel immunogenic T-cell epitopes.
Keywords: HLA-DR; Lyme arthritis; autoantigens; peripheral blood mononuclear cells; rheumatoid arthritis; synovial fluid mononuclear cells; synovial tissue.