, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 63-72
Date: 04 Nov 2010

Protective molecules and their cognate antibodies: new players in autoimmunity

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Impairment of the clearance of apoptotic material seems to contribute to autoantigen exposure, which can initiate or maintain an autoimmune response in predisposed individuals. Complement component C1q, Creactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid P (SAP), mannose-binding lectin (MBL), apolipoprotein A-1 (Apo A-1) and long pentraxin 3 (PTX3) are molecules involved in the removal of apoptotic bodies and pathogens, and in other antiinflammatory pathways. For this reason they have been called “protective” molecules. C1q has a key role in the activation of the complement cascade and acts as a bridging molecule between apoptotic bodies and macrophages favouring phagocytosis. In addition to other functions, CRP, SAP and MBL bind to the surface of numerous pathogens as well as cellular debris and activate the complement cascade, thus stimulating their clearance by immune cells. The role of PTX3 is more controversial. In fact, PTX also promotes the clearance of microorganisms, but the activation of the complement cascade through C1q and removal of apoptotic material can be either stimulated or inhibited by this molecule. Antibodies against protective molecules have been recently reported in systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Some of them seem to be pathogenetic and others protective. Thus, protective molecules and their cognate antibodies may constitute a regulatory network involved in autoimmunity. Dysregulation of this system might contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases in predisposed individuals.