WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Feb 26 - Anaphylactic shock has been associated with exposure to foreign antigens, but a study reported in the March issue of Nature Immunology finds that this devastating outcome may also occur after exposure to self-antigens.
Dr. Lawrence Steinman, from Stanford University Medical Center, in California, and colleagues studied self-antigen anaphylactic shock in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mouse model that shares many features with the human multiple sclerosis.
The authors found that after self-tolerance to myelin was destroyed, the myelin peptide was capable of eliciting an anaphylactic reaction. If the self-antigen was expressed in the thymus, then an anaphylactic reaction did not occur.
" 'Horror autotoxicus,' which was initially described by Ehrlich, may not only include autoimmunity to self, it may also encompass immediate hypersensitivity to self, which leads to shock and rapid death," the investigators point out.
In a related editorial, Dr. Howard L. Weiner, from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, comments that the "authors have expanded further our view of autoimmunity and have highlighted the role of the thymus in shaping a repertoire that may predispose not only to autoimmune disease but also to allergic reactions."
Nat Immunol 2001;2:193-194,216-222.
2000 Reuters Ltd.