Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are both immunologic disorders where specific HLA alleles are associated with disease risk. We have developed a radioassay for autoantibodies to tissue transglutaminase (tTG) following the report that this enzyme is 'the' endomysial autoantigen (EMA) of celiac disease. The radioassay for transglutaminase autoantibodies is similar to that utilized for detecting anti-islet autoantibodies. The 'cut-off' for the IgA autoantibody assay was established as 3 x 100th percentile of 184 healthy control subjects at an index of 0.05. Ninety-eight of 847 patients with type 1 diabetes (11.6%) had tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies (tTG). All EMA-positive patients were positive (49/49) for transglutaminase autoantibodies, as were 49/540 EMA-negative patients. Twenty transglutaminase-positive patients consented to intestinal biopsy and 15 biopsies were positive for celiac disease. All patients with a transglutaminase level greater than 0.70 (13/13) had a positive biopsy, while none (0/3) with a level <0.3 had a positive biopsy. The prevalence of transglutaminase autoantibodies was higher in diabetic patients with HLA DQ2 or DQ8. One third of DQ2 homozygous patients (22/68) expressed transglutaminase autoantibodies vs. less than 2% of patients lacking DQ2 or DQ8. A simple radioassay for IgA transglutaminase autoantibodies detects all endomysial antibody positive patients and detects transglutaminase autoantibodies in 5% of endomysial autoantibody negative patients. The prevalence of transglutaminase autoantibodies is associated with DQ2 and DQ8 and in particular DQ2 homozygosity. Autoimmunity to transglutaminase is remarkably prevalent amongst patients with type 1 diabetes expressing certain class II HLA alleles.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.