Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) have been thought of as silent passengers within our genomes, but their reactivation has been linked with several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes (T1DM). In order to evaluate the potential role of HERVs, in addition to the recognized role of HERV-W, we focused on the debated role of the HERV-K family in T1DM. Therefore, we performed a serological evaluation of IgG antibodies against HERV-K Env epitope (HERV-K Env(19)(-)(37)) in comparison to an important beta-cellular autoimmunity biomarker, ZnT8, from plasma samples of Sardinian children at the onset of T1DM, different T1DM groups (1-5 and 6-12 years since diagnosis), and healthy controls (HCs), by an indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). A significant antibody response was observed against HERV-K Env(19-)(37) (p < 0.0001) in T1DM patients compared to HCs, and significantly higher IgG responses were detected in the group at the onset compared to the other T1DM groups and HCs. Unlike the trend of the beta-cellular autoimmunity autoantibodies, for HERV-K Env antibodies we observed positive values that persist over time up to 5 years since the onset of T1DM. Our results add new evidence about the presence of antibodies against HERV-K in T1DM, but further investigations are necessary to relate these results with the established role of HERVs, considering the contrasting results for HERV-K.
HERV-K Envelope Protein Induces Long-Lasting Production of Autoantibodies in T1DM Patients at Onset in Comparison to ZNT8 Autoantibodies / Noli, Marta; Meloni, Gianfranco; Ruberto, Stefano; Jasemi, Seyedesomaye; Simula, Elena Rita; Cossu, Davide; Bo, Marco; Palermo, Mario; Sechi, Leonardo A. - In: PATHOGENS. - ISSN 2076-0817. - 11:10(2022), p. 1188. [10.3390/pathogens11101188]