Molecular mimicry and multiple sclerosis — a possible role for degenerate T cell recognition in the induction of autoimmune responses

  • B. Gran
  • B. Hemmer
  • R. Martin
Conference paper
Part of the 6th International Winter Conference on N eurodegeneration book series (NEURAL SUPPL, volume 55)


Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. The etiology is unknown, but several lines of evidence support the hypothesis that the pathogenesis is mediated by autoreactive T lymphocytes. Molecular mimicry has been proposed as a possible mechanism for the development of an autoimmune response to myelin antigens. According to this model, an immune reaction to self antigens could be initiated by T cells that cross-react with infectious agents that “mimic” the autoantigen, i.e. they share immunologic epitopes. It was previously thought that, in order for a cross-reaction of T cells to two different antigens to occur, a substantial amino acid sequence homology between the two antigens was required. More recent studies on the basic mechanisms of T cell antigen recognition have shown that, at least for some T cell clones, antigen recognition is more “degenerate” and sequence homology is not required for crossreactivity to occur. This article reviews the relevance of these recent advances in basic T cell receptor immunology to the occurrence of autoimmunity in the central nervous system.


Multiple Sclerosis Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Myelin Basic Protein Antigenic Peptide Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis 
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/Wien 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Gran
    • 1
  • B. Hemmer
    • 1
  • R. Martin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cellular Immunology Section, Neuroimmunology Branch, NINDSNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Maryland at Baltimore Medical SchoolBaltimoreUSA

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