Microbiota-Dependent Activation of an Autoreactive T Cell Receptor Provokes Autoimmunity in an Immunologically Privileged Site

Reiko Horai, Carlos R. Zárate-Bladés, Patricia Dillenburg-Pilla, Jun Chen, Jennifer L. Kielczewski, Phyllis B. Silver, Yingyos Jittayasothorn, Chi Chao Chan, Hidehiro Yamane, Kenya Honda, Rachel R. Caspi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

321 Citations (Scopus)


Activated retina-specific T cells that have acquired the ability to break through the blood-retinal barrier are thought to be causally involved in autoimmune uveitis, a major cause of human blindness. It is unclear where these autoreactive T cells first become activated, given that their cognate antigens are sequestered within the immune-privileged eye. We demonstrate in a novel mouse model of spontaneous uveitis that activation of retina-specific T cells is dependent on gut commensal microbiota. Retina-specific T cell activation involved signaling through the autoreactive T cell receptor (TCR) in response to non-cognate antigen in the intestine and was independent of the endogenous retinal autoantigen. Our findings not only have implications for the etiology of human uveitis, but also raise the possibility that activation of autoreactive TCRs by commensal microbes might be a more common trigger of autoimmune diseases than is currently appreciated. It is unknown where and how T cells reactive to self antigens residing behind blood-tissue barriers first become activated. Caspi and colleagues show that retina-specific T cells receive an activation signal in the gut from a crossreactive antigen dependent on commensal microbiota and trigger autoimmunity in the eye.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3135
Pages (from-to)343-353
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Aug 18

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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