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In situ expansion of T cells that recognize distinct self-antigens sustains autoimmunity in the CNS.

Ramadan, A;Lucca, LE;Carri, N;Desbois, S;Axisa, PP;Hayder, M;Bauer, J;Liblau, RS;Mars, LT;

Polyspecific T cells recognizing multiple distinct self-antigens have been identified in multiple sclerosis and other organ-specific autoimmune diseases, but their pathophysiological relevance remains undetermined. Using a mouse model of multiple sclerosis, we show that autoimmune encephalomyelitis induction is strictly dependent on reactivation of pathogenic T cells by a peptide (35-55) derived from myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). This disease-inducing response wanes after onset. Strikingly, the progression of disease is driven by the in situ activation and expansion of a minority of MOG35-55-specific T cells that also recognize neurofilament-medium (NF-M)15-35, an intermediate filament protein expressed in neurons. This mobilization of bispecific T cells is critical for disease progression as adoptive transfer of NF-M15-35/MOG35-55 bispecific T cell lines caused full-blown disease in wild-type but not NF-M-deficient recipients. Moreover, specific tolerance through injection of NF-M15-35 peptide at the peak of disease halted experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis progression. Our findings highlight the importance of polyspecific autoreactive T cells in the aggravation and perpetuation of central nervous system autoimmunity.