Previously, six T cell clones, which are specific for an encephalitogenic determinant of myelin proteolipid protein (PLP) peptide residues 139 to 151 (HSLGKWLGHPDKF), were derived from SJL mice and shown to use diverse TCR genes. To design TCR antagonist peptides that could interfere with the activation of these clones in vitro and inhibit experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) in vivo, we first determined the TCR and MHC contact residues of the encephalitogenic peptide. The analysis indicated that residues 144 (tryptophan) and 147 (histidine) were the TCR binding sites and that residues 145 (leucine) and 148 (proline) were important for MHC class II (IAs) binding. On the basis of this information, a peptide analogue (leucine 144/arginine 147), in which both of the major TCR contact residues were substituted, was synthesized. This analogue acts as a TCR antagonist for the panel of PLP 139-151-specific T cell clones, does not cause EAE by itself, blocks the induction of disease by the native 139-151 peptide, and prevents clinical disease progression if administered at the first signs of disease. Thus, although multiple TCR genes are used by PLP 139-151-specific clones, a single peptide analogue can interfere with the disease process. This approach should be feasible for designing peptide analogues that can be tested for therapeutic efficacy in human autoimmune diseases in which the pathogenic Ags are known and TCR use is diverse.

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