Summary A major goal in understanding autoimmune diseases is to define the antigens that elicit a self-destructive immune response, but this is a difficult endeavor. In an effort to discover autoantigens associated with type 1 diabetes (T1D), we used epitope surrogate technology that screens combinatorial libraries of synthetic molecules for compounds that could recognize disease-linked autoantibodies and enrich them from serum. Autoantibodies from one patient revealed a highly phosphorylated form of peripherin, a neuroendocrine filament protein, as a candidate T1D antigen. Peripherin antibodies were detected in 72% of donor patient sera. Further analysis revealed that the T1D-associated antibodies only recognized a dimeric conformation of peripherin. These data explain why peripherin was dismissed as an important T1D antigen previously. The discovery of this novel autoantigen would not have been possible using standard methods, such as hybridizing serum antibodies to recombinant protein arrays, highlighting the power of epitope surrogate technology for probing the mechanism of autoimmune diseases.
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We would like to thank K. Lowe and B. Torres of the Scripps Florida Flow Cytometry Core. We are grateful to R. Flefil and P. Martinez of the Scripps Florida Proteomics Core. G. Allende and I. Snowhite characterized blood samples used in this study. This work was supported by a DP3 award from the NIH /NIDDK ( DK-094309 ).