THE CONCURRENCE OF RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS AND LIMITED SYSTEMIC SCLEROSIS: Clinical and Serologic Characteristics of an Overlap Syndrome

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Abstract

Objective.

The characteristics of 3 patients with longstanding rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and consecutive evolution of limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis (lcSSc) were evaluated and compared with those of patients with lcSSc alone (n = 20) or with RA alone (n = 120).

Methods.

Clinical features of the different patient populations were compared. Serologic analyses included tests for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and ANA subsets, in particular anticentromere antibodies (ACA) and anti-heterogeneous nuclear RNP (hnRNP)-A2/RA33 (anti-A2/RA33).

Results.

The 3 patients with RA developed lcSSc 11, 29, or 50 years after the onset of RA. Features of lcSSc were Raynaud's phenomenon, sclerodactyly, and telangiactasias in all 3 patients, and esophageal dysmotility in 1 patient. Rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-A2/RA33 were each found in 2 patients, and 1 of these patients was seropositive for both RF and anti-A2/RA33. ACA titers were positive in all cases. However, similar to the development of RA prior to lcSSc, the occurrence of autoantibodies typical of RA preceded the occurrence of ACA, at least in 2 of the patients. Using affinity-purified antibodies, cross-reactivities between anti-centromere protein A (CENP-A) and anti-CENP-B antibodies with anti-A2/RA33 antigens were seen in the 2 anti-A2/RA33-positive patients. Such cross-reactivities were not found in lcSSc patients without concomitant RA. Epitope mapping revealed that both autoantibody specificities recognized the known major epitopes: anti-CENP-B reacted with the C-terminal region and anti-A2/RA33 with the second RNA binding domain in the N-terminal region of hnRNP-A2.

Conclusion.

The RA-lcSSc overlap syndrome in these 3 patients with longstanding RA was characterized by an incomplete CREST (calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasias) syndrome. The study demonstrated the presence of autoantibodies typical of both diseases and cross-reactivity of ACA with hnRNP-A2/RA33 in the sera of these patients.

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