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Harnessing autoimmunity with dominant self-peptide: Modulating the sustainability of tissue-preferential antigen-specific Tregs by governing the binding stability via peptide flanking residues

Lin, Y;Sakuraba, S;Massilamany, C;Reddy, J;Tanaka, Y;Miyake, S;Yamamura, T;

Sensitization to self-peptides induces various immunological responses, from autoimmunity to tumor immunity, depending on the peptide sequence; however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear, and thus, curative therapeutic options considering immunity balance are limited. Herein, two overlapping dominant peptides of myelin proteolipid protein, PLP136-150 and PLP139-151, which induce different forms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), monophasic and relapsing EAE, respectively, were investigated. Mice with monophasic EAE exhibited highly resistant to EAE re-induction with any encephalitogenic peptides, whereas mice with relapsing EAE were susceptible, and progressed, to EAE re-induction. This resistance to relapse and re-induction in monophasic EAE mice was associated with the maintenance of potent CD69+CD103+CD4+CD25high regulatory T-cells (Tregs) enriched with antigen specificity, which expanded preferentially in the central nervous system with sustained suppressive activity. This tissue-preferential sustainability of potent antigen-specific Tregs was correlated with the antigenicity of PLP136-150, depending on its flanking residues. That is, the flanking residues of PLP136-150 enable to form pivotally arranged strong hydrogen bonds that secured its binding stability to MHC-class II. These potent Tregs acting tissue-preferentially were induced only by sensitization of PLP136-150, not by its tolerance induction, independent of EAE development. These findings suggest that, for optimal therapy, “benign autoimmunity” can be critically achieved through inverse vaccination with self-peptides by manipulating their flanking residues.