En route to identifying peptide antigen triggers in psoriasis

Grantee: Asolina Braun, Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

Amount: DKK 4,007,900

Grant category: Research grants in open competition

Year: 2022

Geography: Australia

Asolina Braun, along with her team and colleagues Professor Anthony Purcell and Professor Johannes Kern, aims to identify and characterize the key self-antigens presented to autoreactive T-cells in psoriasis (PsO) patients. Specifically, she will look at molecules displayed by the major psoriasis genetic risk determinant to identify new treatment targets.

Psoriasis is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which T cells of the immune system recognize short protein sequences (antigens) from the body’s own cells and subsequently attack and destroy tissues inducing a chronic state of inflammation. The initial priming of the T-cells occurs when antigens are presented on the surface of cells by human leukocyte antigen (HLA) receptors, the same molecules that need to be matched in organ transplantations. Among the HLA molecules, the HLA-Cw6+ variant is particularly abundant in psoriatic patients (50% of all and 80% of early onset patients), and Asolina and her team aim to characterize the specific antigens presented by this particular HLA receptor to identify potential targets for future immune therapy like the induction of tolerance in food allergies. The team has already generated the peptide (antigen) library necessary to investigate targets and has created a transgenic mouse model containing the desired HLA receptor to present the antigens. They will also use patient-isolated T-cells to examine the responses and identify the most important peptide antigens contributing to the disease. In parallel, they will investigate if the original trigger of the autoimmune response is caused by peptides from virulent (disease-causing) strains of the environmental pathogenic bacteria, Streptococcus pyrogenes.