The phosphopeptide P140 issued from the spliceosomal U1-70K snRNP protein is recognized by lupus CD4+ T cells, transiently abolishes T cell reactivity to other spliceosomal peptides in P140-treated MRL/lpr mice, and ameliorates their clinical features. P140 modulates lupus patients' T cell response ex vivo and is currently included in phase IIb clinical trials. Its underlying mechanism of action remains elusive. Here we show that P140 peptide binds a unique cell-surface receptor, the constitutively-expressed chaperone HSC70 protein, known as a presenting-protein. P140 induces apoptosis of activated MRL/lpr CD4+ T cells. In P140-treated mice, it increases peripheral blood lymphocyte apoptosis and decreases B cell, activated T cell, and CD4−CD8−B220+ T cell counts via a specific mechanism strictly depending on γδ T cells. Expression of inflammation-linked genes is rapidly regulated in CD4+ T cells. This work led us to identify a powerful pathway taken by a newly-designed therapeutic peptide to immunomodulate lupus autoimmunity
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