Human herpesvirus 6 and multiple sclerosis: A study of T cell cross-reactivity to viral and myelin basic protein antigens

Mara Cirone, Laura Cuomo, Claudia Zompetta, Stefano Ruggieri, Luigi Frati, Alberto Faggioni, Giuseppe Ragona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several reports have suggested an association of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) with multiple sclerosis. Autoreactive T lymphocytes directed against myelin components seem to contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. It has been suggested that molecular mimicry between viral and self-antigens might be one of the mechanisms that determine the onset of several autoimmune diseases. Following this hypothesis, the purpose of the present study was to evaluate if HHV-6 could play a role in activating T cells capable of cross-reaction with an important myelin component, the myelin basic protein. T cell lines were established from 22 multiple sclerosis patients and from 16 healthy controls, and their capability to react to both virus and myelin basic protein antigens was compared. The analysis of T cell cross-reactivity in patients and controls did not show significant differences in the HHV-6 ability to activate myelin basic protein-reactive T cells. Similarly, the evaluation of the humoral immune response to HHV-6 in patients and controls did not mirror any abnormality in the HHV-6 status in multiple sclerosis patients. Therefore, although the findings of activity in vitro of T cell lines with dual specificity are consistent with the hypothesis of molecular mimicry, the lack of differences in cross-reactivity between patients and controls do not support molecular mimicry as an important mechanism in the physiopathology of this disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-272
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


  • Demyelinating disease
  • Herpesvirus
  • Molecular mimicry
  • T lymphocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology


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