Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 552–560 | Cite as

Evidence for mimicry by viral antigens in animal models of autoimmune disease including myocarditis

  • C. M. Lawson


Molecular mimicry of viral antigens with self determinants has been proposed as one of the pathogenic mechanisms in autoimmune disease. Evidence of viral mimicry in animal models of autoimmunity is accumulating. Murine adenovirus, Semliki forest virus, lactate dehydrogenase-elevating virus, herpes simplex virus type-1, hepatitis B virus, encephalomyocarditis virus, Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus, Coxsackievirus and cytomegalovirus have been found to mimic physiologically important host proteins. However, epitope homology of a viral and self determinant is not in itself strong evidence for mimicry as a pathogenic mechanism. The mimicking determinant must also be capable of inducing disease in the absence of replicative virus. Animal models provide evaluation of the viral trigger, and development and therapy for autoimmune diseases. Identification of host proteins that can induce disease together with the knowledge of immune system dysregulation, genetic association and environmental factors may lead to improved immunotherapeutic strategies for human autoimmune diseases.

Key words. Epitope; mimicry; viral proteins; autoimmunity; animal models. 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel, 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Lawson
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, 6150 Western Australia (Australia) Fax +618 9310 4144, e-mail:

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