Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 542-551

First online:

Molecular mimicry: a critical look at exemplary instances in human diseases

  • N. R. Rose*Affiliated withDepartment of Pathology and Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Disease, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions/E5014, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore (Maryland 21205, USA), e-mail: nrrose@jhsph.edu
  • , I. R. MackayAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168 (Australia)

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Molecular mimicry, the concept that antigenic determinants of microorganisms resemble antigenic determinants of the host, is frequently cited as a plausible mechanism to account for the association of infection and autoimmune disease. Based on analogous sequences of amino acids or on cross-reactions of monoclonal antibodies, numerous examples of such mimicry have been reported. There are, however, no clear examples of a human disease caused by molecular mimicry.

Key words. Autoimmunity; molecular mimicry; myocarditis; type 1 diabetes; Lyme disease; rheumatoid arthritis; ankylosing spondylitis; multiple sclerosis.