Molecular Mimicry, Microbial Infection, and Autoimmune Disease: Evolution of the Concept

  • M. B. A. Oldstone
Part of the Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology book series (CT MICROBIOLOGY, volume 296)


Molecular mimicry is defined as similar structures shared by molecules from dissimilar genes or by their protein products. Either several linear amino acids or their conformational fit may be shared, even though their origins are separate. Hence, during a viral or microbe infection, if that organism shares cross-reactive epitopes for B or T cells with the host, then the response to the infecting agent will also attack the host, causing autoimmune disease. A variation on this theme is when a second, third, or repeated infection(s) shares cross-reactive B or T cell epitopes with the first (initiating) virus but not necessarily the host. In this instance, the secondary infectious agents increase the number of antiviral/antihost effector antibodies or T cells that potentiate or precipitate the autoimmune assault. The formation of this concept initially via study of monoclonal antibody or clone T cell cross-recognition in vitro through its evolution to in vivo animal models and to selected human diseases is explored in this mini-review.


Ankylose Spondylitis Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Myelin Basic Protein Molecular Mimicry Encephalitogenic Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. B. A. Oldstone
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Virology, Departments of Neuropharmacology and InfectologyThe Scripps Research InstituteLa JollaUSA

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