Somatic origin of T-cell epitopes within antibody variable regions: significance to monoclonal therapy and genesis of systemic autoimmune disease

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During an immune response, specific antibody variable region genes are diversified by a somatic point mutation process that generates de novo "foreign" V-region sequences. This creates an interesting problem in immune regulation because B cells are highly proficient at self-presenting V-region peptides in the context of class II MHC. Though our studies indicate that the corresponding T-cell repertoire attains a state of tolerance to germline-encoded antibody V-region diversity, it is presently unknown whether the same is true of mutationally generated diversity. On the basis of immunoregulatory considerations, we hypothesize that contact exclusion or tolerance normally precludes T cells from helping B cells via selfpresented mutant V-region peptides. The lack of recurrent somatic mutations that create known T-cell epitopes in antibody V regions lends some support to this idea. In contrast, our studies of spontaneously autoreactive B cells in systemic autoimmune disease strongly suggest that precursors of such cells are recruited by T-cell help directed to self-presented mutant idiopeptides. Failures in tolerance or contact exclusion mechanisms may be responsible for this apparently abnormal event. In addition to their importance in immune regulation, somatic mutations or other differences from germline-encoded V-region sequence may be largely responsible for undesirable patient responses to therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. These reactions might be averted or diminished by inducing tolerance in the T-cell repertoire with synthetic peptide correlates of non-germline-encoded V-region sequences in humanized antibodies.

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