Five CD1 molecules are expressed in humans and it is unclear whether they have specialized or redundant functions. We found that sulfatide is a promiscuous CD1-binding ligand and have isolated T cell clones that are specific for sulfatide and restricted by distinct CD1 molecules. These clones have been used to compare the capacity of different CD1 to present the same glycolipid, to induce effector functions, and to form persistent immunogenic complexes. CD1a, CD1b, and CD1c molecules similarly load sulfatide on the cell surface without processing, and prime Th1 and Th2 responses. Stimulation by sulfatide-loaded CD1a persists much longer than that by CD1b and CD1c in living cells. Use of recombinant soluble CD1a confirmed the prolonged capacity to stimulate T cells. Moreover, other glycosphingolipids bind to all CD1, which suggests the presence of additional promiscuous ligands. Thus, group I CD1 molecules present an overlapping set of self-glycolipids, even though they are quite divergent from an evolutionary point of view.
SWR/J transgenic (tg) mice were generated expressing the TCR beta chain derived from an anticollagen type II (CII) arthritogenic T cell clone. The SWR/J strain was selected because it is resistant to collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) and lacks the V beta gene segment used by the T cell clone. Expression of the tg beta chain on all thymocytes and peripheral lymph node T cells led to a more efficient anti-CII immune response, but did not confer CIA susceptibility to SWR/J mice. Nevertheless, this tg beta chain enhanced predisposition to CIA as (DBA/1 x SWR) F1 beta tg mice were more susceptible than normal F1 littermates. Our results demonstrate that the expression of the tg beta chain contributes to CIA susceptibility, but by itself it is not sufficient to overcome CIA resistance in the SWR/J strain.