A key feature of the immune system is its ability to discriminate self from nonself. Breakdown in any of the mechanisms that maintain unresponsiveness to self (a state known as self-tolerance) contributes to the development of autoimmune conditions. Recent studies in mice show that CD8+ T cells specific for the unconventional MHC class I molecule Qa-1 bound to peptides derived from the signal sequence of Hsp60 (Hsp60sp) contribute to self/nonself discrimination. However, it is unclear whether they exist in humans and play a role in human autoimmune diseases. Here we have shown that CD8+ T cells specific for Hsp60sp bound to HLA-E (the human homolog of Qa-1) exist and play an important role in maintaining peripheral self-tolerance by discriminating self from nonself in humans. Furthermore, in the majority of type 1 diabetes (T1D) patients tested, there was a specific defect in CD8+ T cell recognition of HLA-E/Hsp60sp, which was associated with failure of self/nonself discrimination. However, the defect in the CD8+ T cells from most of the T1D patients tested could be corrected in vitro by exposure to autologous immature DCs loaded with the Hsp60sp peptide. These data suggest that HLA-E–restricted CD8+ T cells may play an important role in keeping self-reactive T cells in check. Thus, correction of this defect could be a potentially effective and safe approach in the therapy of T1D.
Hong Jiang, Steve M. Canfield, Mary P. Gallagher, Hong H. Jiang, Yihua Jiang, Zongyu Zheng, Leonard Chess
Generation of human HLA-E–restricted CD8+ T cell lines that function to discriminate self from nonself by specifically recognizing HLA-E/Hsp60sp expressed on the target cells.