Fine specificity of anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies discloses a heterogeneous antibody population in rheumatoid arthritis

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SummaryAnti-citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA) are highly specific for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, the predominant B cell epitopes have not yet been defined. The aim of this study was to examine the reactivity of ACPA against different peptides derived from citrullinated proteins and to investigate whether or not these antibodies constitute a homogeneous population. For this purpose, sera from patients with RA (n = 141), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (n = 60), Sjögren's syndrome (SS) (n = 54) and healthy controls (n = 100) were tested for their reactivity against six citrullinated peptides derived from peptidyl arginine deiminase (PAD), vimentin (vim), alpha-enolase (enol), fibrin, type II collagen (col-II) and filaggrin, respectively. A non-citrullinated control peptide derived from PAD was used as control (ctrlPAD621–40). Antibody reactivity against each individual peptide was evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Specificity and cross-reactivity of ACPA were tested by using two prototype sera with homologous and cross-inhibition assays. Specificity of ACPA from two prototype sera was confirmed by purification of anti-peptide antibodies and homologous-inhibition experiments. We found that sera from patients with RA reacted diversely with the six citrullinated peptides. More specifically, PAD211–30 displayed 29·08% sensitivity, vim60–75 29·08%, enol5–21 37·59%, fibrin617–31 31·21%, col-II358–75 29·97% and filaggrin306–24 28·37%, while control ctrlPAD621–40 showed no reactivity. All reactive peptides were found to be highly specific for RA. A notable cross-reaction (>70%) was found mainly between filaggrin and the majority of anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies. We concluded that ACPA in RA constitute a heterogeneous population with limited cross-reactivity and without a predominant epitope.

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