The most-debated question in the investigation of the spondyloarthropathies has been whether there is molecular mimicry between host HLA-B27 antigens and the arthritis-causing pathogens. We have generated a monoclonal anti-HLA-B27 antibody in our laboratory and have used a radioimmunoassay to screen a panel of bacterial species. Two strains of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis were found to be highly reactive. The cross-reactive Yersinia component was identified by Western blot to be a 19,000 component. A preparative sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis chromatography apparatus was constructed to isolate milligram quantities of this component. To verify that the component carried the HLA-B27-specific epitope, rabbits were hyperimmunized with the purified materials. Affinity-purified antibodies from one of the immunized rabbits indeed carried anti-HLA-B27 activity. Last, antibodies generated against synthetic peptides derived from the HLA-B27.1 amino acid sequence were tested against the Yersinia component. Positive reactivity was found with antibodies generated against a peptide spanning residues 69-83 of the HLA-B27.1 protein. Since this resides in the segment responsible for the allotypic specificity of the antigen, these experiments establish the presence of molecular mimicry to a high degree of confidence.

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