Protein & Cell

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 8–16

Recognition of self and altered self by T cells in autoimmunity and allergy



T cell recognition of foreign peptide antigen and tolerance to self peptides is key to the proper function of the immune system. Usually, in the thymus T cells that recognize self MHC + self peptides are deleted and those with the potential to recognize self MHC + foreign peptides are selected to mature. However there are exceptions to these rules. Autoimmunity and allergy are two of the most common immune diseases that can be related to recognition of self. Many genes work together to lead to autoimmunity. Of those, particular MHC alleles are the most strongly associated, reflecting the key importance of MHC presentation of self peptides in autoimmunity. T cells specific for combinations of self MHC and self peptides may escape thymus deletion, and thus be able to drive autoimmunity, for several reasons: the relevant self peptide may be presented at low abundance in the thymus but at high level in particular peripheral tissues; the relevant self peptide may bind to MHC in an unusual register, not present in the thymus but apparent elsewhere; finally the relevant self peptide may be post translationally modified in a tissue specific fashion. In some types of allergy, the peptide + MHC combination may also be fully derived from self. However the combination in question may be modified by the presence of other ligands, such as small drug molecules or metal ions. Thus these types of allergies may act like the post translationally modified peptides involved some types of autoimmunity.


altered self neoantigen antigen presenting T cell recognition autoimmunity allergy diabetes dermatitis drug hypersensitivity 


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© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Integrated Department of ImmunologyNational Jewish HealthDenverUSA
  2. 2.Integrated Department of ImmunologyNational Jewish HealthDenverUSA
  3. 3.Program in Structural Biology and BiophysicsUniversity of Colorado Denver, School of MedicineAuroraUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular GeneticsUniversity of Colorado Denver, School of MedicineAuroraUSA

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