Objective: To examine domain recognition by anti-DNA topoisomerase I (anti-DNA topo I, or anti-topo I) antibodies over time in scleroderma patients.
Methods: Serial serum samples from scleroderma patients with known reactivity to Scl-70, a 70-kd topo I breakdown product, were tested by immunoblot for IgM, IgG, IgA, kappa, and lambda reactivity to Scl-70 and 8 overlapping recombinant peptide fragments (F1-F8) that span the human topo I molecule.
Results: IgM, IgG, kappa, and lambda anti-topo I antibodies in both early-disease and late-disease serum samples preferentially recognized the Scl-70 molecule rather than the F1-F8 peptides, suggesting preferential recognition of conformational determinants on Scl-70 throughout the disease course. Amounts of both primary and secondary anti-topo I antibodies to Scl-70 varied over time, including increases in primary antibody responses late in the disease course. Striking variability in recognition of the F1-F8 peptides by IgM, IgG, IgA, kappa, and lambda anti-topo I antibodies was seen in serial samples. Most often, the change in FI-F8 recognition from one sample to the next was unpredictable, although occasionally patterns of antibody recognition were reciprocal in serial samples. Of note, in several patients, what could have been interpreted as domain spreading among F1-F8 in 2 successive samples was just a part of changing antibody reactivity to these peptides that again became more restricted in a third sample.
Conclusion: Titers and immunodominant domains recognized by both primary and secondary anti-topo I antibodies are highly variable over time. This suggests continual antigen presentation and regulation of the anti-topo I antibody response in scleroderma, even late in the disease course.