T-helper cell intrinsic defects in lupus that break peripheral tolerance to nuclear autoantigens
Many individuals develop a single or a few brief episodes of autoimmunity from which they recover. Mechanisms that quell pathologic autoimmunity following such a breakdown of self-tolerance are not clearly understood. In this study, we show that in nonautoimmune mice, dsDNA-specific autoreactive B cells exist but remain inactive. This state of inactivation in dsDNA-specific B cells could be disrupted by autoreactive Th cells; in this case T cells that react with peptides from the V(H) region of anti-DNA Abs (hereafter called anti-V(H) T cells). Immunization with anti-DNA mAb, its gamma-chain or peptides derived from its V(H) region induced anti-V(H) Th cells, IgG anti-dsDNA Ab, and proteinuria. The breakdown of B cell tolerance in nonautoimmune mice, however, was short-lived: anti-DNA Ab and nephritis subsided despite subsequent immunizations. The recovery from autoimmunity temporally correlated with the appearance of T cells that inhibited anti-DNA Ab production. Such inhibitory T cells secreted TGFbeta; the inhibition of anti-DNA Ab production by these cells was partly abolished by anti-TGFbeta Ab. Even without immunization, nonautoimmune mice possess T cells that can inhibit autoantibody production. Thus, inhibitory T cells in nonautoimmune mice may normally inhibit T-dependent activation of autoreactive B cells and/or reverse such activation following stimulation by Th cells. The induction of such inhibitory T cells may play a role in protecting nonautoimmune mice from developing chronic autoimmunity.