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Prolidase deficiency (PD) is a multisystem disorder caused by mutations in the PEPD gene, which encodes a ubiquitously expressed metallopeptidase essential for the hydrolysis of dipeptides containing C-terminal proline or hydroxyproline. PD typically presents in childhood with developmental delay, skin ulcers, recurrent infections, and, in some patients, autoimmune features that can mimic systemic lupus erythematosus. The basis for the autoimmune association is uncertain, but might be due to self-antigen exposure with tissue damage, or indirectly driven by chronic infection and microbial burden. In this study, we address the question of causation and show that Pepd-null mice have increased antinuclear autoantibodies and raised serum IgA, accompanied by kidney immune complex deposition, consistent with a systemic lupus erythematosus-like disease. These features are associated with an accumulation of CD4 and CD8 effector T cells in the spleen and liver. Pepd deficiency leads to spontaneous T cell activation and proliferation into the effector subset, which is cell intrinsic and independent of Ag receptor specificity or antigenic stimulation. However, an increase in KLRG1+ effector CD8 cells is not observed in mixed chimeras, in which the autoimmune phenotype is also absent. Our findings link autoimmune susceptibility in PD to spontaneous T cell dysfunction, likely to be acting in combination with immune activators that lie outside the hemopoietic system but result from the abnormal metabolism or loss of nonenzymatic prolidase function. This knowledge provides insight into the role of prolidase in the maintenance of self-tolerance and highlights the importance of treatment to control T cell activation.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date