The role of environmental antigens in the spontaneous development of autoimmunity in MRL-lpr mice.
It has been proposed that the "normal" stimulation of the immune system that occurs from interactions with environmental stimuli, whether infectious or dietary, is necessary for the initiation and/or continuation of autoimmunity. We tested this hypothesis by deriving a group of MRL-lpr mice into a germfree (GF) environment. At 5 mo of age, no differences between GF and conventional MRL-lpr mice were noted in lymphoproliferation, flow cytometric analysis of lymph node cells (LN), or histologic analysis of the kidneys. Autoantibody levels were comparably elevated in both groups. A second experiment tested the role of residual environmental stimuli by contrasting GF mice fed either a low m.w., ultrafiltered Ag-free (GF-AF) diet or an autoclaved natural ingredient diet (GF-NI). At 4 mo of age, both groups showed extensive lymphoproliferation and aberrant T cell formation, although the GF-AF mice had approximately 50% smaller LNs compared with sex-matched GF-NI controls. Autoantibody formation was present in both groups. Histologic analysis of the kidneys revealed that GF-AF mice had much lower levels of nephritis, while immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated no difference in Ig deposits but did reveal a paucity of C3 deposition in the kidneys of GF-AF mice. These data do not support a role for infectious agents in the induction of lymphoproliferation and B cell autoimmunity in MRL-lpr mice. Furthermore, they suggest that autoantibodies do not originate from B cells that were initially committed to exogenous Ags. They do suggest a possible contributory role for dietary exposure in the extent of lymphoproliferation and development of nephritis in this strain.
Maldonado, MA; Kakkanaiah, V; MacDonald, GC; Chen, F; Reap, EA; Balish, E; Farkas, WR; Jennette, JC; Madaio, MP; Kotzin, BL; Cohen, PL; Eisenberg, RA
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