Morbid Sequences Suggest Molecular Mimicry between Microbial Peptides and Self-Antigens: A Possibility of Inciting Autoimmunity

Front Microbiol. 2017 Oct 9:8:1938. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01938. eCollection 2017.


Understanding etiology of autoimmune diseases has been a great challenge for designing drugs and vaccines. The pathophysiology of many autoimmune diseases may be attributed to molecular mimicry provoked by microbes. Molecular mimicry hypothesizes that a sequence homology between foreign and self-peptides leads to cross-activation of autoreactive T cells. Different microbial proteins are implicated in various autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, human type 1 diabetes, primary biliary cirrhosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It may be imperative to identify the microbial epitopes that initiate the activation of autoreactive T cells. Consequently, in the present study, we employed immunoinformatics tools to delineate homologous antigenic regions between microbes and human proteins at not only the sequence level but at the structural level too. Interestingly, many cross-reactive MHC class II binding epitopes were detected from an array of microbes. Further, these peptides possess a potential to skew immune response toward Th1-like patterns. The present study divulges many microbial target proteins, their putative MHC-binding epitopes, and predicted structures to establish the fact that both sequence and structure are two important aspects for understanding the relationship between molecular mimicry and autoimmune diseases. Such findings may enable us in designing potential immunotherapies to tolerize autoreactive T cells.

Keywords: HLA binders; autoantigens; autoimmunity; cytokines; immunoinformatics; microbes; molecular mimicry; sequence and structural mimicry.