Homologous regions of five amino acids each, were identified in the NH2-terminal domain of human class II beta chains and the COOH terminus of HIV I envelope protein. The homologous regions are highly conserved among different DR and DQ alleles and also among different isolates of HIV. Septamers containing these sequences were synthesized and used for the generation of murine mAbs. The mAbs selected for this study were raised against the HIV I-derived peptide and reacted strongly not only with the immunizing peptide, but also with the homologous class II-derived peptide. These mAbs also reacted with native MHC class II antigens expressed on human B cell lines and on murine fibroblast L cell lines transfected with the genes coding for the alpha and beta chains of human class II antigens. Furthermore, sera from 36% of AIDS patients tested contained antibodies that reacted with the class II-derived peptide, as well as with intact class II molecule-rich cell extracts. Such antibodies in HIV I-infected individuals may recognize self class II antigens, triggering autoimmune mechanisms that could contribute to the development of immunodeficiency in AIDS patients.

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