Healthy individuals have Goodpasture autoantigen-reactive T cells

Juan Zou, Sigrid Hannier, Lindsay S. Cairns, Robert N. Barker, Andrew J. Rees, A. Neil Turner, Richard G. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Autoreactive T cells in patients with Goodpasture's disease are specific for epitopes in the Goodpasture antigen (the NC1 domain of the alpha 3 chain of type IV collagen) that are rapidly destroyed during antigen processing to a degree that diminishes their presentation to T cells. We hypothesized that patients' autoreactive T cells exist because antigen processing prevents presentation of the self-epitopes they recognize, circumventing specific tolerance mechanisms. We predicted that autoreactive T cells specific for these peptides should also exist in healthy individuals, albeit at low frequency and in an unprimed state. We obtained blood from healthy unrelated donors and, using a panel of 45 alpha 3(IV)NC1 peptides, identified alpha 3(IV)NC1-specific T cells in all donors. Thirty-six of 45 peptides elicited a proliferative T cell response from at least one subject, and 6 of the peptides evoked a response in >50% of the individuals. This consistency was not caused by selectivity of HLA class II molecules because the donors expressed a diversity of HLA antigens, but was largely a result of the substrate-specificity of the endosomal proteases Cathepsin D and E. There was a significant correlation between high susceptibility to Cathepsin D digestion and the capacity to stimulate primary T cell responses (P = 0.00006). In summary, healthy individuals have low frequencies of unstimulated alpha 3(IV)NC1-reactive T cells with similar specificities to the autoreactive T cells found in patients with Goodpasture disease. In both cases, existence of the alpha 3(IV)NC1-reactive T cells can be accounted for by destructive processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-404
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2008
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • antigen presentation
  • epitope immunodominance
  • rhesus polypeptides
  • cathepsin-D
  • in-vitro
  • specificity
  • identification
  • disease
  • protein
  • site


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