HLA molecules are essential for thymic education and HLA restriction of T-cell responses. We therefore analyzed the HLA-DR binding affinities of synthetic peptides covering the entire sequences of GAD65, islet cell antigen 69 (ICA69), and (pro)insulin, which are candidate antigens in the autoimmune process of T-cell-mediated destruction of the pancreatic beta-cells. Subsequently, peptide HLA-DR binding was correlated to peptide antigenicity by comparing known T-cell epitopes with their HLA-binding affinities defined in this study. The results demonstrate the following. 1) (Pro)insulin peptides display a strong binding affinity for HLA-DR2, which is associated with negative genetic predisposition to IDDM, whereas poor binding was observed for HLA-DR molecules neutrally or positively associated with IDDM. This suggests that the absence of insulin-reactive T-cells in DR2+ individuals may be explained by negative selection on high-affinity DR2 binding insulin peptides. 2) Most autoantigenic peptides display promiscuous HLA-DR binding patterns. This promiscuity in itself is not sufficient to explain the genetic association of HLA-DR with development of IDDM. 3) HLA-DR3 binding of autoantigenic GAD65 peptides is relatively weak compared with that of other known T-cell epitopes. 4) All peptide epitopes recognized by HLA-DR-restricted T-cells from either IDDM patients or GAD65-immunized HLA-DR transgenic mice bind with high affinity to their HLA-DR restriction molecule (P < 0.0006). In contrast, T-cell epitopes recognized by nondiabetic controls bind DR molecules with weak or undetectable affinity. These results thus indicate a strong correlation between antigenicity and HLA-DR binding affinity of GAD65 peptides in IDDM. Furthermore, negative thymic selection of insulin peptides in low-risk (HLA-DR2 expressing) subjects may explain the lack of autoreactivity to insulin in such individuals.

This content is only available via PDF.