The human PDC-E2 163-176 peptide (GDLLAEIETDKATI) is an immunodominant autoreactive T-cell epitope in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), restricted by HLA DRB4*0101. We have previously reported that the ExDK sequence is essential for recognition of this epitope and identified 1 mimicry peptide, Escherichia coli PDC-E2 peptide (EQSLITVEGDKASM), which can activate human PDC-E2 163-176 peptide-reactive T-cell clones. In the present study, to further investigate mimicry peptides possibly involved in PBC, we generated 13 different T-cell clones reactive to the human PDC-E2 163-176 peptide following repeated in vitro stimulation of peripheral T lymphocytes with the human PDC-E2 163-176 peptide (native peptide) and tested for the reactivity of these T-cell clones to 30 different mimicry peptides derived from various self- and nonself proteins that have an ExDK-sequence. We found 7 mimicry peptides derived from microbial proteins that can activate at least 1 of these T-cell clones; 7 of 7 T-cell clones from patients with PBC and 2 of 6 T-cell clones from healthy subjects were activated by at least 1 to 6 different mimicry peptides. Two of 6 T-cell clones from healthy subjects were activated by specific mimicry peptides more strongly than by the native peptide, and 2 of 6 T-cell clones from healthy subjects were not activated by any mimicry peptides tested. Thus, the pattern and degree of activation by mimicry peptides differed in each T-cell clone, indicating the presence of a diverse spectrum of autoreactive T cells that are reactive to a single minimal epitope of the human PDC-E2 163-176 peptide.
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