Objective: To clarify the clinical significance of anticentromere antibodies (ACA) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Two hundred sixteen patients with SLE who were treated in our department were surveyed cross sectionally for the presence of ACA using indirect immunofluorescence on HEp-2 cell lines. ACA were identified by their discrete speckled pattern. Antibodies to the major centromere protein, CENP-B, were also studied with ELISA. Serial determinations of anti-CENP-B were carried out using stored serum samples, if available.
Results: ACA were recognized in 12 (5.6%) patients with SLE. All patients were receiving steroid therapy, with a mean dose of prednisolone of 14.4 mg/day. These patients also tested positive for anti-CENP-B with high titers despite the low serological disease activity in most. Three or more CREST features were observed in 2 patients and 2 others had no such features. Both patients without CREST features had a relatively short disease duration. The age at onset of SLE was significantly higher and Raynaud's phenomenon was more frequent in patients with ACA than in patients without ACA. In 8 of 10 patients tested, retrospective analysis using stored sera revealed no consistent change in anti-CENP-B titers over time.
Conclusion: The presence of ACA in patients with SLE is apparently more frequent than previously believed. Patients with SLE with ACA may be a distinct subgroup. A longterm followup is warranted to fully determine the clinical significance of ACA in patients with SLE.