Objective: To examine whether autoantibody recognition of modified forms of the U1-70-kd RNP antigen correlates with manifestations of rheumatic disease.
Methods: Blinded to clinical disease manifestations, sera from 27 rheumatic disease patients with U1-70-kd antibodies were used to immunoblot control, apoptotic, and oxidatively modified HeLa cell lysates. Using densitometry, recognition of antigen fragments was quantitated. The presence or absence of 1) lupus skin disease and 2) Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) was determined for each patient by chart review. The ability of patient sera to recognize the different fragments was compared for patients with and without skin disease and with and without RP.
Results: Patients with lupus skin disease had higher recognition of apoptotic U1-70 kd than did patients without skin disease (mean +/- SD fragment recognition index [FRI] 1.35 +/- 0.57 versus 0.95 +/- 0.25; P < 0.024, by Student's t-test). Patients with RP had higher recognition of oxidatively modified U1-70 kd than did patients without RP (mean +/- SD FRI 0.95 +/- 0.80 versus 0.24 +/- 0.22; P < 0.048).
Conclusion: Recognition of apoptotically and oxidatively modified forms of the U1-70-kd autoantigen are associated with distinct clinical rheumatic disease manifestations. This finding provides in vivo evidence for the hypothesis that immune recognition of modified forms of self antigens may be relevant to the pathogenesis of systemic rheumatic diseases. Understanding the antigenic modifications to which patients react may help predict the expression of rheumatic syndromes.