Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

A General Theory of Autoimmune Disease Causation: Integrating Innate and Adaptive Immunity, Altered Antigen Processing, Sex and Genetic Predispositions, and Microbiome Effects

Version 1 : Received: 31 May 2019 / Approved: 4 June 2019 / Online: 4 June 2019 (10:21:32 CEST)

How to cite: Root-Bernstein, R. A General Theory of Autoimmune Disease Causation: Integrating Innate and Adaptive Immunity, Altered Antigen Processing, Sex and Genetic Predispositions, and Microbiome Effects. Preprints 2019, 2019060028 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201906.0028.v1). Root-Bernstein, R. A General Theory of Autoimmune Disease Causation: Integrating Innate and Adaptive Immunity, Altered Antigen Processing, Sex and Genetic Predispositions, and Microbiome Effects. Preprints 2019, 2019060028 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201906.0028.v1).

Abstract

Current theories of autoimmunity are diverse, sometimes contradictory, and suffer from incompleteness. Although substantial evidence exists that adaptive and innate immunity, sex, genetic predisposition, and the microbiome all play essential roles in autoimmune disease etiologies and pathogenesis, and that antigen processing is altered during disease induction, no existing theory integrates all of these factors through a single, coherent mechanism. In an attempt to focus the field on the need to elucidate such an integrative mechanism, I propose one possibility here that, if nothing else, helps to identify the nature of the problems that need to be addressed. My theory is that autoimmune diseases are induced by normal immunological responses to unique pairs of complementary antigens, at least one of which is a molecular mimic of a host target.  Each antigen in the complementary pair induces a complementary immune response (T or B cell); although each immune response is idiotypic in origin, the antigenic complementarity results in what appears to be an idiotype-anti-idiotype relationship between the responses. Additionally, because of the antigenic complementarity, each immune response mimics one of antigens, abrogating the distinction between self and non-self. If at least one of the antigens mimics a host antigen, then the resulting immunological civil war spreads to a host tissue. Complementary antigens also alter antigen processing so that antigens that would normally be proteolytically digested are presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) to T and B cell receptors inducing a cross-reactive immune response. The resulting civil war is supported by the innate immune system due to the complementarity of the initiating antigens.. Complementary antigens stimulate synergistic toll-like receptors (TLR) and/or nucleotide-binding oligomerization receptors (NOD) resulting in up-regulation of cytokine production and further stimulation of the adaptive immune response. Because the immune responses (e.g., antibodies) mimic the initiating antigens, this synergistic activation of innate immunity becomes chronic. Additionally, TLR and NOD function are highly sensitive to sex hormones, some becoming up-regulated and some down-regulated in the presence of either testosterone or estrogens. This sensitivity explains how sex modifies susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. Genetic mutations in TLR, NOD and MHC further alter antigen presentation and the degree to which antigens stimulate an immune response explaining how genetics also modifies susceptibility. Finally, sex hormones also alter the host microbiome, which in turn modulates autoimmune disease risk by shaping the immunological nature of self and by mediating susceptibility to microbial infection.  Moreover, it appears that the microbiome camouflages itself from the immune system by mimicking the host antigenic repertoire; the mimicry between the antigens of the microbiome and the host results in selective attacks on microbiome constituents concomitant with any autoimmune attack on host tissues. This antigenic complementarity theory thereby integrates all major elements known to affect, or be affected by, autoimmune diseases and provides a set of testable implications.

Subject Areas

autoimmunity; toll-like receptors; TLR; nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain; NOD1; major histocompatibility complex; MHC; human leukocyte antigens; HLA; proteasome; innate immunity; adaptive immunity; T cells; B cells; antibodies; microbiome; tolerance; self; non-self; antigen processing

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