Pathogenic and non-pathogenic T lymphocytes specific for the encephalitogenic epitope of myelin basic protein: functional characteristics and vaccination properties

J Neuroimmunol. 1993 Aug;47(1):41-53. doi: 10.1016/0165-5728(93)90283-5.


Activated CD4+ T lymphocytes specific for myelin basic protein (MBP) can cause experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) upon their inoculation into syngeneic recipients. In Lewis rats, most of the pathogenic T cell clones that develop following immunization with MBP are reactive against the 72-84 amino acid sequence of MBP, the major encephalitogenic region for Lewis rats. In this study, some MBP-specific T cell clones were found to be non-pathogenic, in spite of their strong reactivity against the encephalitogenic epitope. One of these non-pathogenic clones, designated Znp, and an encephalitogenic clone, Z1a-p, were derived from Z1a encephalitogenic line cells. These subclones were compared for epitope specificity, T cell receptor variable gene expression and for various functional activities, in order to delineate properties crucial for pathogenicity. The Z1a-p and Znp cells expressed comparable levels of the T cell receptor genes and shared strong reactivity against the 72-84 epitope of MBP. The pathogenic Z1a-p cells displayed MBP-specific cytolytic activity in vitro, provided an in-vivo 'help' for elicitation of MBP-specific antibodies, mediated a delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) response to MBP, caused EAE and vaccinated against the disease, thus demonstrating that a single CD4+ T cell clone is capable of eliciting various functions. The non-pathogenic Znp cells could also carry out most of these various functions, but failed to mediate a DTH response to MBP in normal animals. However, when inoculated into sublethally (650 R) irradiated syngeneic recipients, the Znp cells became highly pathogenic and mediated DTH response to MBP. Local irradiation of the recipient facilitated a DTH response to MBP in the irradiated ear, indicating that Znp cells are equipped with the effector mechanisms required for pathogenicity, and that their failure to cause disease may be accounted for by their inability to migrate into extravascular target tissue. Similar data were obtained with an independently isolated non-pathogenic clone, LB-3, specific for the encephalitogenic epitope of MBP. The ability of these non-pathogenic cells to vaccinate against EAE mediated by pathogenic cells raises the possibility that such non-pathogenic cells may play a role in triggering downregulation of pathogenic T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / pathology
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Female
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myelin Basic Protein / immunology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Epitopes
  • Myelin Basic Protein
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell