Immune context is an essential determinant of the host response to potential autoantigens. The clustering of the autoantigens targeted in systemic lupus erythematosus within surface blebs of apoptotic cells generates high concentrations of autoantigen within discrete subcellular packages. We demonstrate here that when apoptosis is induced by Sindbis virus infection, viral antigens and autoantigens cocluster exclusively in small surface blebs of apoptotic cells. The surface of these blebs is rich in viral glycoproteins, and virions can be seen blebbing from their surface. We propose that these blebs of mixed foreign and self-origin define a novel immune context that may challenge self-tolerance.
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