An increased frequency of autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T cells in pre-diseased lupus-prone mice

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Abstract

Pathogenic autoantibody production in murine models of lupus is dependent on autoreactive CD4+ helper T cells. However, the mechanisms which permit the selection and maintenance of this autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T-cell repertoire are currently unknown. We hypothesized that the peripheral CD4+ T-cell repertoire of lupus-prone mice was enriched with autoantibody-inducing specificities. To test this, we utilized the splenic focus assay to determine if pre-diseased lupus-prone (NZB × NZW)F1 mice have an elevated frequency of autoreactive CD4+ T lymphocytes capable of supporting autoantibody production. The splenic focus limiting dilution assay permits anti-nuclear antibodies to be generated from contact-dependent T–B interactions in vitro. We show that young, pre-diseased lupus-prone mice have an elevated frequency of autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T cells. Interestingly, these autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T-cell responses are also present in the thymus. Therefore, an elevated frequency of autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T cells predisposes lupus-prone mice to the development of autoantibodies.

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