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Viral myocarditis involves the generation of autoreactive T cells with multiple antigen specificities that localize in lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs in the mouse model of CVB3 infection

Basavalingappa, RH;Arumugam, R;Lasrado, N;Yalaka, B;Massilamany, C;Gangaplara, A;Riethoven, JJ;Xiang, SH;Steffen, D;Reddy, J;

Autoreactive T cells may contribute to post-viral myocarditis induced with Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3), but the underlying mechanisms of their generation are unclear. Here, we have comprehensively analyzed the generation of antigen-specific, autoreactive T cells in the mouse model of CVB3 infection for antigens implicated in patients with myocarditis/dilated cardiomyopathy. First, comparative analysis of CVB3 proteome with five autoantigens led us to identify three mimicry epitopes, one each from adenine nucleotide translocator 1 (ANT), sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase 2a (SERCA2a) and cardiac troponin I. None of these induced cross-reactive T cell responses. Next, we generated major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II dextramers to enumerate the frequencies of antigen-specific T cells to determine whether T cells with multiple antigen specificities are generated by CVB3 infection. These analyses revealed appearance of CD4 T cells positive for SERCA2a 971−990, and cardiac myosin heavy chain-α (Myhc) 334−352 dextramers, both in the periphery and also in the hearts of CVB3-infected animals. While ANT 21−40 dextramer+ T cells were inconsistently detected, the β1-adrenergic receptor 181−200/211−230 or branched chain α-ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase 111−130 dextramer+ cells were absent. Interestingly, SERCA2a 971−990, Myhc 334−352 and ANT 21−40 dextramer+ cells were also detected in the liver indicating that they may have a pathogenic role. Finally, we demonstrate that the SERCA2a 971−990-reactive T cells generated in CVB3 infection could transfer disease to naïve mice. The data suggest that CVB3 infection can lead to the generation of autoreactive T cells for multiple antigens indicating a possibility that the autoreactive T cells localized in the liver can potentially circulate and contribute to the development of viral myocarditis.