Acetylcholine receptor—specific T-Lymphocyte clones in the normal human immune repertoire: Target epitopes, hla restriction, and membrane phenotypes



Potentially autoimmune T-lymphocyte lines specific for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor of the neuromuscular junction have been isolated previously from patients with myasthenia gravis. We report on the isolation and expansion of T cells specific for the acetylcholine receptor of Torpedo californica or for a recombinant mammalian acetylcholine receptor alpha chain peptide (X4), from the peripheral blood of 11 healthy donors. Two major T-cell epitopes, located between amino acid positions 44-104 and 141-172, were identified using a panel of overlapping mammalian alpha chain fusion proteins. Most T lines recognized the acetylcholine receptor epitopes in the molecular context of HLA-DR molecules. Unexpectedly, all the T. californica acetylcholine receptor-specific T lines obtained from one DR4 (DRw53), DQw3 donor and two DR4, w8 (DRw53), DQw3 donors were restricted by DRw53 product(s). Using DR gene-transfected L cells as antigen presenters, in 4 lines, a close relationship between the recognized epitope and the restricting DR element was revealed. The membrane phenotype of the T. californica acetylcholine receptor-and X4-specific T lines was predominantly CD4+CD8, with some CD4+CD8+ components. It did not significantly differ from that of control, tuberculin purified protein derivate-specific T lines raised from the same donors. These findings are in harmony with previous ones demonstrating the presence of potentially autoimmune T-lymphocyte clones within normal immune repertoires.