Immunogenicity of human recombinant acetylcholine receptor alpha subunit: cytoplasmic epitopes dominate the antibody response in four mouse strains.
Palace J., Vincent A., Beeson D., Newsom-Davis J.
In mysathenia gravis (MG) autoantibodies directed against acetylcholine receptors (AChR), at the neuromuscular junction lead to muscle weakness. These antibodies are directed against extracellular determinants, predominantly on the AChR alpha subunits. Similar antibodies can be induced in animals by immunisation with purified AChR, but immunisation of mice with recombinant human alpha subunit or its extracellular domain has produced conflicting results. To study further the immunogenicity of the human alpha subunit we immunised four inbred stains (C57B1/6, SJL, BALB/c, SWR) with almost full-length recombinant alpha subunit, r37-429, and looked at B cell epitopes by mapping with smaller recombinant fragments and synthetic peptides. The majority of anti-r37-429 antibodies bound to sequences within a region thought to be cytoplasmic, alpha 325-368, and reacted with human AChR. In two C57B1/6 sera, only, most antibodies were directed against an extracellular region, alpha 138-167, but the r37-429 used for immunisation of these two mice appeared to have lost the integrity of its cytoplasmic domain during preparation. Our results suggest that the antigenicity of the cytoplasmic region of the recombinant alpha subunit dominates the immune response in each of the four strains, and may even suppress the formation of antibodies to the extracellular domain. Moreover, although C57B1/6 and SJL mice were able to produce antibodies to alpha 138-167, these antibodies did not react with intact AChR, and none of the mice became weak.