Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by demyelination and loss of neurological function, local macrophage infiltrate and neuroantigenspecific CD4+T cells. MS arises from complex interactions between genetic, immunological, infective and biochemical mechanisms. Although the circumstances of MS etiology remain hypothetical, one persistent theme involves immune system recognition of myelin-specific antigens derived from myelin basic protein, the most abundant extrinsic myelin membrane protein, and/or another equally suitable myelin protein or lipid. Knowledge of the biochemical and physico-chemical properties of myelin proteins and lipids, particularly their composition, organization, structure and accessibility with respect to the compacted myelin multilayers, becomes central to understanding how and why myelin-specific antigens become selected during the development of MS. This review focuses on the current understanding of the molecular basis of MS with emphasis: (i) on the physical-chemical properties, organization, morphology, and accessibility of the proteins and lipids within the myelin multilayers; (ii) on the structure-function relationships and characterization of the myelin proteins relevant to the manifestation and evolution of MS; (iii) on conformational relationships between myelin epitopes which might become selected during the development of MS; (iv) on the structure of MHC/HLA in complex with MBP peptides as well as with TCR, which is crucial to the understanding of the pathogenesis of MS with the ultimate goal of designed antigen-specific treatments.
Keywords: multiple sclerosis, proteins of the myelin sheath, mbp, mhc, tcr, docking, epitopes, structure
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