Rhodopsin, an integral membrane protein of rod photoreceptor cells, induces an experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) when injected into Lewis rats. This disease is characterized by a mononuclear and polymorphonuclear cellular infiltrate of the retina resulting in destruction of the photoreceptor cells. In this study the B and T cell specificities of the response to bovine rhodopsin by Lewis rats were determined. Antibodies induced by injection of rhodopsin were directed almost exclusively to the IV-V loop (residues 174-202). Later in the response, antibody to the N-terminus was also detected. At the T cell level, most activity was directed to the C-terminus as measured by in vitro lymphocyte proliferation. Other minor T cell epitopes were found in the II-III (96-114) and IV-V (174-202) loops. Further dissection of the amino acid sequence responsible for the activity isolated to the C-terminus indicated that a 12-amino acid-long sequence (331-342) elicited the strongest proliferative response.
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