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Cytotoxic T lymphocytes and autoimmunity

Blanco, Patricka,b,c; Viallard, Jean-Françoisa; Pellegrin, Jean-Luca; Moreau, Jean-Françoisb,c

Current Opinion in Rheumatology: November 2005 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 731-734
doi: 10.1097/01.bor.0000179942.27777.f8
Myositis and myopathies

Purpose of review The possibility of the recognition by cytotoxic T lymphocytes of tissue autoantigens has been largely ignored in explaining organ-specific autoimmune diseases. Recent advances in the understanding of human leukocyte antigen class I-binding peptides motifs have led to the detection and the characterization of those autoreactive CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes involved in organ-specific autoimmune diseases. The purpose of this review is to discuss recent studies that shed light on the implication of cytotoxic T lymphocytes in several autoimmune disorders as well as the mechanisms underlying their stimulation.

Recent findings Significant progress has been made in the characterization of autoantigens targeted by cytotoxic T lymphocytes in several class I-restricted autoimmune diseases, including Behçet's disease and ankylosing spondylitis, and their implication in systemic autoimmune disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Moreover, the signals involved in the activation of autoreactive cytotoxic T lymphocytes have been better characterized, particularly the molecular requirements of the antigen presentation at the surface of the dendritic cell system, mainly because of a better understanding of the Toll-like receptor-induced signals or the discovery of a defect in regulatory T cells.

Summary New findings in the pathophysiology of cytotoxic T lymphocytes in autoimmunity and especially a better comprehension of their activation may give a new impetus for the development of targeted immunologic therapies in various autoimmune disorders.

aClinique de Médecine Interne, Hôpital Haut-Lévêque, Pessac, France; bLaboratoire d'Immunologie, Hôpital Pellegrin, Bordeaux, France; and cCentre National Recherche Scientifique-Université Bordeaux 2, Bordeaux, France

Correspondence to Patrick Blanco, MD, PhD, Laboratoire d'Immunologie, Place Amélie Raba-Léon, 33076 Bordeaux Cedex, France

Tel: +33 557571471; fax: +33 557571472; e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.