The major encephalitogenic epitope for Lewis rats is the 72-89 sequence of guinea pig basic protein (GP-BP) or rat basic protein (Rt-BP). T cells responsive to this epitope are I-A-restricted and preferentially express the Vα2:Vβ8 gene combination in their TCR. In this work, we describe for the first time the delayed appearance of T cells specific for additional discrete determinant of BP, the nonencephalitogenic 55-68 sequence of GP-BP restricted by I-A, and the encephalitogenic 87-99 sequence of Rt-BP restricted by I-E. The TCR Vα2:Vβ8 gene combination was expressed by both encephalitogenic GP-BP S72-89 and Rt-BP S87-99 T cell specificities but not by GP-BP 44-68-specific T cells. This is the first demonstration of I-E-restricted encephalitogenic T cells in Lewis rats and supports the conclusion that the I-E class II locus is involved in autoimmune diseases.
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