The MHC-II peptidome of pancreatic islets identifies key features of autoimmune peptides

Xiaoxiao Wan, Anthony N. Vomund, Orion J. Peterson, Alexander V. Chervonsky, Cheryl F. Lichti, Emil R. Unanue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The nature of autoantigens that trigger autoimmune diseases has been much discussed, but direct biochemical identification is lacking for most. Addressing this question demands unbiased examination of the self-peptides displayed by a defined autoimmune major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) molecule. Here, we examined the immunopeptidome of the pancreatic islets in non-obese diabetic mice, which spontaneously develop autoimmune diabetes based on the I-Ag7 variant of MHC-II. The relevant peptides that induced pathogenic CD4+ T cells at the initiation of diabetes derived from proinsulin. These peptides were also found in the MHC-II peptidome of the pancreatic lymph nodes and spleen. The proinsulin-derived peptides followed a trajectory from their generation and exocytosis in β cells to uptake and presentation in islets and peripheral sites. Such a pathway generated conventional epitopes but also resulted in the presentation of post-translationally modified peptides, including deamidated sequences. These analyses reveal the key features of a restricted component in the self-MHC-II peptidome that caused autoreactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-463
Number of pages9
JournalNature immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


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