Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 111–118

Molecular mimicry and auto-immunity


DOI: 10.1007/BF02686087

Cite this article as:
Blank, M., Barzilai, O. & Shoenfeld, Y. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol (2007) 32: 111. doi:10.1007/BF02686087


The term “molecular mimicry” was coined by R. Damian in 1964, who was first to suggest that antigenic determinants of micro-organisms may resemble antigenic determinants of their host. Damian suggested that this similarity served as a defense mechanism of a microorganism from the host’s immune system and prevented the development of immune response to the micro-organism, thereby protecting it from host defense. Years later, the term “molecular mimicry” was attributed a different meaning—namely, antigenic determinants of microorganisms might elicit an auto-immune response that harms the host. The concept of molecular mimicry is based on a structural similarity between a pathogen or metabolite and self-structures. The similarity could be expressed as shared amino acid sequences (linear or mimotope) or similar conformational structure between a pathogen and self-antigen.

“Molecular mimicry” has become a very popular explanation for the frequent association of infection with auto-immune disease.

Index Entries

Molecular-mimicry auto Abs infection autoimmunity rheumatic fever Changas disease systemic lupus erythematosus Guillain-Barré syndrome 

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Department of Medicine ‘B’, Sheba Medical CenterSackler Faculty of MedicineIsrael
  2. 2.Incumbent of the Laura Schwarz-Kipp Chair for Research of Autoimmune DiseasesTel-Aviv UniversityIsrael

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