Objective: To determine the disease sensitivity and specificity of testing for autoantibodies against 2 of the 3 main human centromere antigenic components, CENP-A and CENP-B (recombinant, expressed in baculovirus).
Methods: ELISA with CENP-A and CENP-B antigens were used to test 45 sera showing a centromere pattern by immunofluorescence (IFA) and sera from 96 patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), subdivided into diffuse (dSSc) and limited (lSSc) forms. For controls, the same tests were performed on sera from 100 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 100 with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and 50 random blood donors. Sera from all the patients with SSc were also tested for the presence of anti-Scl70 antibody by ELISA (bovine antigen), and for pattern and titer by IFA (HEp-2 cells).
Results: Of the 45 IFA positive sera, 93% were positive for anti-CENP-A and 91% for anti-CENP-B. There was a very good quantitative correlation between the antibody levels against these 2 centromere components (r = 0.597; p<0.001). Anti-CENP-A and B were found in 48% of patients with lSSc, and in 11% and 9%, respectively, of those with dSSc. The difference in the frequency of anti-CENP-A between the 2 patient groups was significant (chi-squared, p<0.001). Similar levels of anticentromere staining pattern by IFA were observed for these 2 groups. Anti-Scl70 was elevated in 8% of lSSc and 25% of dSSc patients; this difference was also significant (chi-squared, p = 0.02). Neither CENP-A nor CENP-B reacted with IgG from SSc patients containing anti-Scl70. The frequency of abnormal levels in patients with SLE and RA was, respectively, 11% and 3% for anti-CENP-A and 4% and 3% for anti-CENP-B. The reaction of IgG from SLE and RA patients with CENP-A was not inhibited by histone H3, i.e., it was not due to recognition of the histone-like domain in CENP-A. Thus, when 96 SSc patients were compared to 200 patients with RA and SLE, the disease specificity of anti-CENP-A and B was 93% and 96.5%, respectively.
Conclusion: In addition to IFA, ELISA tests for CENP-A and CENP-B yield results with similar sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of SSc. CENP-A and CENP-B are primarily associated with lSSc. In SSc the autoantibody response is directed simultaneously and with similar amplitude against these 2 components of the centromere structure, whereas in other autoimmune diseases the response is directed mainly against one of the 2 components.