Clinicopathologic significance of in vivo antinuclear autoantibodies in oral mucosal biopsies

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Although antinuclear autoantibody (ANA) staining of oral biopsy specimens is indicative of chronic ulcerative stomatitis, it is not known whether this staining is characteristic of other autoimmune diseases. Our study was undertaken to characterize the various in vivo ANA patterns detected in the oral mucosa by direct immunofluorescence to describe the associated hematoxylin and eosin findings, and determine whether patients with these findings had a coexisting systemic connective tissue disease.

Study Design.

This was a retrospective analysis of oral biopsy specimens submitted from 2013 to 2016.


In vivo ANA staining was present in 72 of the 2019 cases examined. Immunoglobulin G was the most common immunoreactant (71 of 72 cases), and speckled nuclear staining was the most frequent in vivo ANA pattern (52 of 72). In most cases, hematoxylin and eosin staining of biopsy specimens showed mucositis (24 of 34). Detailed clinical information was available for 10 patients, and all of them had an autoimmune disease.


We found similar prevalence of ANA staining with direct immunofluorescence in oral epithelial biopsy specimens as reported for those of skin. In vivo ANA in the oral epithelium may indicate the presence of an immune-mediated disease. Patients who show ANA deposits in oral mucosal biopsy specimens should be investigated for systemic connective tissue disease as well as for chronic ulcerative stomatitis.

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