Anaphylaxis — the most severe manifestation of allergy — has been previously associated only with exposure to a foreign antigen. The antigen is often derived from medication, insect venom or food. Now, a team from Stanford University and University of Milan, report in March Nature Immunology that anaphylaxis may also be triggered by a self-antigen (Nat Immun 2001, 2:216-222).

Rosetta Pedotti and colleagues used SJL/J mice, which are considered a model for multiple sclerosis because they develop experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. The authors showed these mice can die of anaphylaxis following administration of the self-antigen myelin PLPp(139–151) (proteolipid protein amino acids 139–151).

PLPp(139–151) is not expressed in the thymus and thus produces neither thymic nor central tolerance. Pedotti et al. then tested the correlation between the ability of a self-antigen to induce thymic tolerance and its ability to induce anaphylaxis. They found that PLPp(178–191) and myelin basic protein,...

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