Serum anti–T cell receptor (TCR) Ab’s are involved in immune regulation directed against pathogenic T cells in experimental models of autoimmune diseases. Our identification of a dominant T cell population expressing the Vβ5.1 TCR gene (TCRBV5-1), which is responsible for the production of pathogenic anti-acetylcholine receptor (AChR) autoantibodies in HLA-DR3 patients with early-onset myasthenia gravis (EOMG), prompted us to explore the occurrence, reactivity, and regulatory role of anti-TCR Ab’s in EOMG patients and disease controls with clearly defined other autoantibodies. In the absence of prior vaccination against the TCR, EOMG patients had elevated anti-Vβ5.1 Ab’s of the IgG class. This increase was restricted largely to EOMG cases with HLA-DR3 and with less severe disease, and it predicted clinical improvement in follow-up studies. EOMG patient sera containing anti-TCR Ab’s bound specifically the native TCR on intact Vβ5.1-expressing cells and specifically inhibited the proliferation and IFN-γ production of purified Vβ5.1-expressing cells to alloantigens in mixed lymphocyte reaction and the proliferation of a Vβ5.1-expressing T cell clone to an AChR peptide, indicating a regulatory function for these Ab’s. This evidence of spontaneously active anti-Vβ5.1 Ab’s in EOMG patients suggests dynamic protective immune regulation directed against the excess of pathogenic Vβ5.1-expressing T cells. Though not sufficient to prevent a chronic, exacerbated autoimmune process, it might be boosted using a TCR peptide as vaccine.
Florence Jambou, Wei Zhang, Monique Menestrier, Isabelle Klingel-Schmitt, Olivier Michel, Sophie Caillat-Zucman, Abderrahim Aissaoui, Ludovic Landemarre, Sonia Berrih-Aknin, Sylvia Cohen-Kaminsky