Objective: To study the frequency and disease specificity of antinucleosome antibody reactivity in diverse connective tissue diseases (CTD), and to determine factors, such as antibody subclass, that may influence the pathogenicity of these antibodies in relation to disease activity.
Methods: IgG and IgM antinucleosome activities on nucleosome core particles from 496 patients with 13 different CTD and 100 patients with hepatitis C were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Of the patients with CTD, 120 had systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 37 had scleroderma (systemic sclerosis; SSc), 20 had mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD), and 319 had other CTD, including Sjögren's syndrome, inflammatory myopathy, rheumatoid arthritis, primary antiphospholipid syndrome, Wegener's granulomatosis, Takayasu arteritis, giant cell arteritis, relapsing polychondritis, Behçet's syndrome, and sarcoidosis. Antinucleosome-positive sera were further analyzed, by isotype-specific ELISA, for antinucleosome and anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) IgG subclasses.
Results: SLE, SSc, and MCTD were the only 3 CTD in which antinucleosome IgG were detected (71.7%, 45.9%, and 45.0% of patients, respectively). Antinucleosomes of the IgG3 subclass were present at high levels in patients with active SLE and were virtually absent in those with SSc, MCTD, or inactive SLE, and their levels showed a positive correlation with SLE disease activity. Of note, an increase in levels of antinucleosome of the IgG3 isotype was observed during SLE flares, and this increase was found to be closely associated with active nephritis. Levels of antinucleosome of the IgG1 subclass showed a trend toward an inverse correlation with SLE disease activity. No significant fluctuation in the anti-dsDNA isotype profile was observed in relation to SLE severity or clinical signs.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that IgG antinucleosome is a new marker that may help in the differential diagnosis of CTD; antinucleosome of the IgG3 isotype might constitute a selective biologic marker of active SLE, in particular, of lupus nephritis.