Myelin basic protein-specific T-cell responses in identical twins discordant or concordant for multiple sclerosis

Roland Martin, Rhonda Voskuhl, Marjorie Flerlage, Dale E. McFarlin, Henry F. McFarland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although multiple sclerosis (MS) is thought to be an autoimmune disease, the target antigen of the immune response is unknown. Both myelin basic protein (MBP) and proteolipid protein (PLP) have been considered candidate autoantigens. Because the immune response to either foreign or self antigens is influenced by the genetic background of the host, the importance of these candidate antigens has been difficult to establish in humans because of genetic diversity. To eliminate genetic differences in MS patients and healthy controls, we have studied the MBP-specific T-cell response in 6 sets of identical twins, 3 of which were concordant and 3 discordant for MS. A total of 638 short-term T-cell lines were established and characterized for MBP-specific proliferative and cytotoxic activity, fine specificity, and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) restriction. Similar frequencies of MBP-specific T cells were observed in affected and unaffected individuals. A slightly higher percentage of cytotoxic T-cell lines was found in affected individuals. For most of the cell lines, the restriction elements were the HLA class II antigens that have been reported previously to be associated with MS; no important differences with respect to HLA restriction were found between the patients and healthy individuals. The peptide epitopes of MBP that were recognized most frequently by the T-cell lines were those previously shown to be immunodominant. Differences in specificity were seen in some discordant twins indicating that, despite genetic identity, the MBP-specific T-cell repertoire may be shaped differently. These findings indicate that differences in frequency, peptide specificity, or HLA restriction are not sufficient to implicate MBP-specific T cells in the pathogenesis of MS. However, the T-cell response to MBP may still represent one necessary component with disease occurring when this response is combined with other host characteristics such as regulation of cytokine-, adhesion molecule-, or HLA-antigen expression in the nervous system or immunoregulatory mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-535
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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