Molecular mimicry or epitope similarity between group A streptococcal M proteins and myosin may contribute to the presence of heart reactive antibodies in acute rheumatic fever. In our study overlapping synthetic peptides copying the entire sequence of PepM5 protein were used to map the myosin cross-reactive epitopes of streptococcal M protein recognized by mouse and human mAb and affinity purified myosin-specific antibodies from acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease sera. Overlapping M protein peptides SM5(164-197)C and SM5(184-197)C inhibited the murine mAb reactions with PepM5 protein. The human mAb and affinity purified myosin-specific antibodies reacted exclusively with SM5(184-197)C. However, one of the five different purified myosin-specific antibodies not only reacted with SM5(184-197)C but also reacted with SM5(84-116)C. The synthetic subpeptides SM5(175-184)C and SM5(188-197C) did not react with any of the antibodies to PepM5 and myosin demonstrating a requirement of the 184-188 amino acid sequence for antibody recognition. A heptapeptide containing the sequence SM5(183-189) was also found to inhibit selected human myosin-specific antibodies and a human antimyosin mAb. Therefore, the majority of mouse and human myosin crossreactive antibodies recognized an epitope within the 14 residue carboxy terminus of PepM5 which appeared to involve the GLN-LYS-SER-LYS-GLN sequence.

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