Abstract: Is gulf war syndrome an autoimmune disorder of endogenous neuropeptides, exogenous sandfly maxadilan and molecular mimicry?

Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(5):658-64.

Staines DR.

Gold Coast Public Health Unit, 10-12 Young Street, Southport, Qld. 4215, Australia.

Gulf war syndrome (GWS) remains a contentious diagnosis with conflicting laboratory investigation and lack of a biologically plausible aetiology. This paper discusses the potential role of maxadilan, a potent sandfly vasoactive peptide, in causing autoimmune responses in susceptible individuals through possible molecular mimicry with pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and the PAC1R receptor. Gulf war syndrome may share some causative pathology with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a disorder characterised by prolonged fatigue and debility mostly associated with post-infection sequelae although ongoing infection is unproven.

Immunological aberration associated with an expanding group of vasoactive neuropeptides in the context of molecular mimicry and inappropriate immunological memory has been recently raised as possible cause of CFS. Vasoactive neuropeptides act as hormones, neurotransmitters, immune modulators and neurotrophes. They are readily catalysed to small peptide fragments. They and their binding sites are immunogenic and are known to be associated with a range of autoimmune conditions. Maxadilan, while not sharing substantial sequence homology with PACAP is a known agonist of the PACAP specific receptor (PAC1R) and therefore emulates these functions. Moreover a specific amino acid sequence peptide deletion within maxadilan converts it to a PACAP receptor antagonist raising the possibility of this substance provoking a CFS like response in humans exposed to it.

This paper describes a biologically plausible mechanism for the development of a GWS-like chronic fatigue state based on loss of immunological tolerance to the vasoactive neuropeptide PACAP or its receptor following bites of the sandfly Phlebotomus papatasi and injection of the vasodilator peptide maxadilan. Exacerbation of this autoimmune response as a consequence of recent or simultaneous multiple vaccination exposures deserves further investigation. While the possible association between the relatively recently discovered vasoactive neuropeptides and chronic fatigue conditions has only recently been reported in the literature, this paper explores links for further research into GWS and CFS.

PMID: 15082085 [PubMed – in process]

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