High frequency of cytolytic 21-hydroxylase-specific CD8+ T cells in autoimmune Addison's disease patients.
Dawoodji A., Chen J-L., Shepherd D., Dalin F., Tarlton A., Alimohammadi M., Penna-Martinez M., Meyer G., Mitchell AL., Gan EH., Bratland E., Bensing S., Husebye ES., Pearce SH., Badenhoop K., Kämpe O., Cerundolo V.
The mechanisms behind destruction of the adrenal glands in autoimmune Addison's disease remain unclear. Autoantibodies against steroid 21-hydroxylase, an intracellular key enzyme of the adrenal cortex, are found in >90% of patients, but these autoantibodies are not thought to mediate the disease. In this article, we demonstrate highly frequent 21-hydroxylase-specific T cells detectable in 20 patients with Addison's disease. Using overlapping 18-aa peptides spanning the full length of 21-hydroxylase, we identified immunodominant CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses in a large proportion of Addison's patients both ex vivo and after in vitro culture of PBLs ≤20 y after diagnosis. In a large proportion of patients, CD8(+) and CD4(+) 21-hydroxylase-specific T cells were very abundant and detectable in ex vivo assays. HLA class I tetramer-guided isolation of 21-hydroxylase-specific CD8(+) T cells showed their ability to lyse 21-hydroxylase-positive target cells, consistent with a potential mechanism for disease pathogenesis. These data indicate that strong CTL responses to 21-hydroxylase often occur in vivo, and that reactive CTLs have substantial proliferative and cytolytic potential. These results have implications for earlier diagnosis of adrenal failure and ultimately a potential target for therapeutic intervention and induction of immunity against adrenal cortex cancer.