European journal of immunology 2016 6 23() doi 10.1002/eji.201646416
T-cell polyspecificity, predicting that individual T cells recognize a continuum of related ligands, implies that multiple antigens can tolerize T cells specific for a given self-antigen. We previously showed in C57BL/6 mice that part of the CD4(+) T-cell repertoire specific for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) 35-55 also recognizes the neuronal antigen neurofilament medium (NF-M) 15-35. Such bi-specific CD4(+) T cells are frequent and produce inflammatory cytokines after stimulation. Since T cells recognizing two self-antigens would be expected to be tolerized more efficiently, this finding prompted us to study how polyspecificity impacts tolerance. We found that similar to MOG, NF-M is expressed in the thymus by medullary thymic epithelial cells, a tolerogenic population. Nevertheless, the frequency, phenotype, and capacity to transfer experimental encephalomyelitis (EAE) of MOG35-55 -reactive CD4(+) T cells were increased in MOG-deficient but not in NF-M-deficient mice. We found that presentation of NF-M15-35 by I-A(b) on dendritic cells is of short duration, suggesting unstable MHC class II binding. Consistently, introducing an MHC-anchoring residue into NF-M15-35 (NF-M15-35 T20Y) increased its immunogenicity, activating a repertoire able to induce EAE. Our results show that in C57BL/6 mice bi-specific encephalitogenic T cells manage to escape tolerization due to inefficient exposure to two self-antigens. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.