Cross-immunoreactivity between bacterial aquaporin-Z and human aquaporin-4: potential relevance to neuromyelitis optica.

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the CNS that is mediated, in part, by a self-reactive Ab against the astrocyte aquaporin-4 protein. In the current study, we examined the possibility and the biological significance of cross-immunoreactivity between bacterial aquaporin-Z and human aquaporin-4 proteins. Sequence-alignment analysis of these proteins revealed several regions of significant structural homology. Some of the homologous regions were also found to overlap with important immune and disease-relevant epitopes. Cross-immunoreactivity between aquaporin-Z and aquaporin-4 was investigated and ascertained in multiple immune-based assays using sera from patients with neuromyelitis optica, immune mouse serum, and Abs raised against aquaporin-Z. The biological significance of this phenomenon was established in series of experiments demonstrating that induction of an immune response against aquaporin-Z or its homologous regions can also trigger an autoimmune reaction against aquaporin-4 and inflammation of the CNS. Our study indicates that the autoimmune response against aquaporin-4 in neuromyelitis optica may be triggered by infection-induced cross-immunoreactivity and presents a new perspective on the pathogenesis of this disease.
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