Rhodopsin, a membrane protein of rod photoreceptor cells, induces an experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) in Lewis rats. Synthetic peptides derived from rhodopsin sequences that cover hydrophilic, exposed regions of the protein were tested for their capacity of eliciting in vitro T cell proliferation and their ability for inducing EAU in Lewis rats. Rats were injected with rhodopsin's peptides mixed in complete Freund's adjuvant containing M. tuberculosis H37Ra (5 mg/ml) three days after pretreatment with cyclophosphamide (20 mg/kg). ELISA results indicate that all peptides induce antibody responses; however antibody liters differ among sera tested. Immunization with four peptides - the amino-terminus (2-32), loop I-II (61-75), loop V-VI (230-251), and the carboxyl-terminus (324-348 and 331-342) induced both antibody and T cell responses. In all cases, the proliferative responses of cells derived from peptide-injected rats were stronger against the immunizing peptide than against native protein. Three distinct uveitogenic epitopes were identified on rhodopsin's cytoplasmic surface - within the rhodopsin carboxyl-terminus (324-348), loop I-II (61-75), and loop V-VI (230-250). Histopathologically, at the immunized doses, total destruction of the photoreceptor cell layer was observed as compared to the control group. Loop V-VI caused severe inflammation of the retina while the other pathogenic peptides produced less severe destruction with few inflammatory cells present. Our study indicates that the major immunodominant T cell epitope (331-342) is also involved in EAU induction but is not the primary uveitogenic site.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience