Type II collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) is an experimentally inducible autoimmune disorder that is, just like several forms of human arthritis, influenced by a genetic background. Immunization of young rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with type II collagen (CII) induced CIA in about 70% of the animals. One major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I allele was present only in young animals resistant to CIA and absent in arthritic animals. This strong association suggests that the MHC class I allele itself, or a closely linked gene, determines resistance to CIA. The mechanism controlling the resistance to CIA becomes less efficient in aged animals since older rhesus monkeys, which were positive for the resistance marker, developed a mild form of arthritis. At the cellular level it is demonstrated that resistance to CIA is reflected by a low responsiveness of T cells to CII. This association between a specified MHC class I allele and resistance to an autoimmune disease points at the importance of the MHC class I region in the regulation of the immune response to an autoantigen.

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