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      Autoepitopes and Alloepitopes of Type IV Collagen: Role in the Molecular Pathogenesis of Anti-GBM Antibody Glomerulonephritis

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          Anti-glomerular basement membrane (anti-GBM) antibodies elicited by autoimmune or alloimmune mechanisms are associated with aggressive forms of rapid progressive glomerulonephritis. Pathogenic anti-GBM autoantibodies and alloantibodies target the noncollagenous (NC1) domains of the α3α4α5(IV) collagen, a major GBM component. In autoimmune anti-GBM glomerulonephritis, a breakdown of immune self-tolerance leads to the activation of autoreactive B and T cells recognizing epitopes within the α3NC1 subunit. In the GBM, the conformational epitopes targeted by anti-GBM autoantibodies are structurally sequestered within the α3α4α5NC1 hexamer complex formed upon assembly of collagen IV chains into trimeric molecules and networks. Autoantibodies selectively bind to and dissociate a subset of α3α4α5NC1 hexamers composed of monomer subunits, whereas hexamers containing NC1 dimer subunits are resistant to dissociation by autoantibodies. The crypticity of α3NC1 autoepitopes suggests that self-tolerance to α3(IV) collagen is broken by structural alterations of the native α3α4α5NC1 hexamer that unmask normally sequestered epitopes, triggering an autoimmune reaction. Post-transplant anti-GBM nephritis in the renal allograft of transplanted Alport patients is mediated by an alloimmune reaction to the NC1 domains of α3α4α5(IV) collagen, present in the allograft GBM but absent from Alport basement membranes. Alloantibodies from patients with autosomal-recessive Alport syndrome predominantly bind to the α3NC1 domain, whereas alloantibodies from X-linked Alport patients target preferentially, though not exclusively, epitopes within the α5NC1 subunit. The accessibility of the alloantigenic sites within the α3α4α5NC1 hexamers, contrasting with the crypticity of autoantigenic sites, suggest that different molecular forms of α3α4α5(IV) collagen initiate the immunopathogenic responses in the two forms of anti-GBM disease. Advances in elucidating the structure of the GBM antigen and the identification of the pathogenic B and T cell epitopes, along with new insights into the pathogenic mechanisms at cellular and molecular level will facilitate the development of targeted strategies for prevention, detection, and treatment of human anti-GBM antibody glomerulonephritis.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Crystal structure of NC1 domains. Structural basis for type IV collagen assembly in basement membranes.

          Type IV collagen, which is present in all metazoan, exists as a family of six homologous alpha(IV) chains, alpha1-alpha6, in mammals. The six chains assemble into three different triple helical protomers and self-associate as three distinct networks. The network underlies all epithelia as a component of basement membranes, which play important roles in cell adhesion, growth, differentiation, tissue repair and molecular ultrafiltration. The specificity of both protomer and network assembly is governed by amino acid sequences of the C-terminal noncollagenous (NC1) domain of each chain. In this study, the structural basis for protomer and network assembly was investigated by determining the crystal structure of the ubiquitous [(alpha1)(2).alpha2](2) NC1 hexamer of bovine lens capsule basement membrane at 2.0 A resolution. The NC1 monomer folds into a novel tertiary structure. The (alpha1)(2).alpha2 trimer is organized through the unique three-dimensional domain swapping interactions. The differences in the primary sequences of the hypervariable region manifest in different secondary structures, which determine the chain specificity at the monomer-monomer interfaces. The trimer-trimer interface is stabilized by the extensive hydrophobic and hydrophilic interactions without a need for disulfide cross-linking.
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            The 1.9-A crystal structure of the noncollagenous (NC1) domain of human placenta collagen IV shows stabilization via a novel type of covalent Met-Lys cross-link.

            Triple-helical collagen IV protomers associate through their N- and C-termini forming a three-dimensional network, which provides basement membranes with an anchoring scaffold and mechanical strength. The noncollagenous (NC1) domain of the C-terminal junction between two adjacent collagen IV protomers from human placenta was crystallized and its 1.9-A structure was solved by multiple anomalous diffraction (MAD) phasing. This hexameric NC1 particle is composed of two trimeric caps, which interact through a large planar interface. Each cap is formed by two alpha 1 fragments and one alpha 2 fragment with a similar previously uncharacterized fold, segmentally arranged around an axial tunnel. Each monomer chain folds into two structurally very similar subdomains, which each contain a finger-like hairpin loop that inserts into a six-stranded beta-sheet of the neighboring subdomain of the same or the adjacent chain. Thus each trimer forms a quite regular, but nonclassical, sixfold propeller. The trimer-trimer interaction is further stabilized by a previously uncharacterized type of covalent cross-link between the side chains of a Met and a Lys residue of the alpha 1 and alpha 2 chains from opposite trimers, explaining previous findings of nonreducible cross-links in NC1. This structure provides insights into NC1-related diseases such as Goodpasture and Alport syndromes.
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              Reactive oxygen species expose cryptic epitopes associated with autoimmune goodpasture syndrome.

              Goodpasture syndrome is an autoimmune disease of the kidneys and lungs mediated by antibodies and T-cells directed to cryptic epitopes hidden within basement membrane hexamers rich in alpha3 non-collagenous globular (NC1) domains of type IV collagen. These epitopes are normally invisible to the immune system, but this privilege can be obviated by chemical modification. Endogenous drivers of immune activation consequent to the loss of privilege have long been suspected. We have examined the ability of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to expose Goodpasture epitopes buried within NC1 hexamers obtained from renal glomeruli abundant in alpha3(IV) NC1 domains. For some hexameric epitopes, like the Goodpasture epitopes, exposure to ROS specifically enhanced recognition by Goodpasture antibodies in a sequential and time-dependent fashion; control binding of epitopes to alpha3(IV) alloantibodies from renal transplant recipients with Alport syndrome was decreased, whereas epitope binding to heterologous antibodies recognizing all alpha3 NC1 epitopes remained the same. Inhibitors of hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radical scavengers were capable of attenuating the effects of ROS in cells and kidney by 30-50%, respectively, thereby keeping the Goodpasture epitopes largely concealed when compared with a 70% maximum inhibition by iron chelators. Hydrogen peroxide administration to rodents was sufficient to expose Goodpasture epitope in vivo and initiate autoantibody production. Our findings collectively suggest that ROS can alter the hexameric structure of type IV collagen to expose or destroy selectively immunologic epitopes embedded in basement membrane. The reasons for autoimmunity in Goodpasture syndrome may lie in an age-dependent deterioration in inhibitor function modulating oxidative damage to structural molecules. ROS therefore may play an important role in shaping post-translational epitope diversity or neoantigen formation in organ tissues.

                Author and article information

                Nephron Exp Nephrol
                Cardiorenal Medicine
                S. Karger AG
                June 2007
                06 June 2007
                : 106
                : 2
                : e37-e43
                Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn., USA
                101791 Nephron Exp Nephrol 2007;106:e37–e43
                © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 1, References: 23, Pages: 1


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