Pathogenic autoantibodies are routinely generated during the response to foreign antigen: A paradigm for autoimmune disease

Subhransu K. Ray, Chaim Putterman, Betty Diamond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


The immune system's ability to distinguish self and nonself is essential for both host defense against foreign agents and protection of self-antigens from autoimmune destruction. Such discrimination is complicated by extensive structural homology shared between foreign and self antigens. One hypothesis to explain the development of an autoimmune response is that some B cells activated by foreign antigen acquire, through somatic mutation, specificity for both the eliciting foreign antigen and self antigen. If such clones arise frequently, there must be a mechanism for their elimination. We have analyzed the extent of autoreactivity arising in a nonautoimmune host during the response to a foreign antigen. To overcome the process of apoptosis in primary B cells that might routinely eliminate autoreactive clones, we generated B-cell hybridomas from spleen cells of immunized mice by using a fusion partner constitutively expressing bcl-2. Multiple lines were obtained that recognize simultaneously the hapten phosphorylcholine and the self antigen double-stranded DNA. This dual specificity was not present early but was detected by day 10 after immunization. Some of these cross-reactive antibodies deposit in kidneys in a pattern similar to what is seen in autoimmune disease. These results demonstrate that autoantibodies arise at a high frequency as part of a response to foreign antigen. It has previously been shown that autoreactivity is regulated by central deletion; these data demonstrate a need for negative selection in peripheral lymphoid organs also, to regulate autoantibodies acquiring their self-specificity by somatic mutation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2019-2024
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 5 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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