Trypanosoma cruzi-induced molecular mimicry and Chagas’ disease

Author: Girones, N.; Cuervo, H.; Fresno, M.

Description: Chagas’ disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, has been considered a paradigm of infection-induced autoimmune disease. Thus, the scarcity of parasites in the chronic phase of the disease contrasts with the severe cardiac pathology observed in approximately 30% of chronic patients and suggested a role for autoimmunity as the origin of the pathology. Antigen-specific and antigen-non-specific mechanisms have been described by which T. cruzi infection might activate T and B cells, leading to autoimmunity. Among the first mechanisms, molecular mimicry has been claimed as the most important mechanism leading to autoimmunity and pathology in the chronic phase of this disease. In this regard, various T. cruzi antigens, such as B13, cruzipain and Cha, cross-react with host antigens at the B or T cell level and their role in pathogenesis has been widely studied. Immunization with those antigens and/or passive transfer of autoreactive T lymphocytes in mice lead to clinical disturbances similar to those found in Chagas’ disease patients. On the other hand, the parasite is becoming increasingly detected in chronically infected hosts and may also be the cause of pathology either directly or through parasite-specific mediated inflammatory responses. Thus, the issue of autoimmunity versus parasite persistence as the cause of Chagas’ disease pathology is hotly debated among many researchers in the field. We critically review here the evidence in favor of and against autoimmunity through molecular mimicry as responsible for Chagas’ disease pathology from clinical, pathological and immunological perspectives.

Subject headings: Animals; Antigens, Protozoan/immunology; Autoantigens/immunology; Autoimmunity; B-Lymphocytes/immunology; Chagas Cardiomyopathy/etiology/immunology/parasitology; Chagas Disease/etiology/immunology/parasitology; Epitopes; Helminth Proteins/immunology; Humans; Lymphocyte Activation; Molecular Mimicry/immunology; Myosins/immunology; Protozoan Proteins/immunology; Ribosomal Proteins/immunology; T-Lymphocytes/immunology; Trypanosoma cruzi/growth & development/immunology/pathogenicity

Publication year: 2005

Journal or book title: Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology

Volume: 296


Pages: 89-123

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 558