The major synovial targets of the rheumatoid arthritis-specific antifilaggrin autoantibodies are deiminated forms of the alpha- and beta-chains of fibrin

J Immunol. 2001 Mar 15;166(6):4177-84. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.166.6.4177.


IgG antifilaggrin autoantibodies (AFA) are the most specific serological markers of rheumatoid arthritis. In epithelial tissues, they recognize citrulline-bearing epitopes present on various molecular forms of (pro)filaggrin. Histological analysis of rheumatoid synovial membranes with an Ab to citrulline showed labeling of interstitial amorphous deposits and mononuclear cells of various types. Immunochemical analysis of exhaustive sequential extracts of the same tissues showed that they contain several deiminated (citrulline containing) proteins. Among them, two proteins, p64--78 and p55--61, present in urea-DTT and guanidine extracts, were shown by immunoblotting to be specifically targeted by AFA. By amino-terminal sequencing the proteins were identified as deiminated forms of the alpha- and beta-chains of fibrin, respectively. Their identity was confirmed using several Abs specific for the A alpha- and/or to the B beta-chain of fibrin(ogen). Moreover, AFA-positive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sera and purified AFA were highly reactive to the A alpha- and B beta-chains of human fibrinogen only after deimination of the molecules by a peptidylarginine deiminase. Autoantibodies affinity purified from a pool of RA sera onto deiminated fibrinogen were reactive toward all of the epithelial and synovial targets of AFA. This confirmed that the autoantibodies to the deiminated A alpha-and B beta-chains of fibrinogen, the autoantibodies to the synovial proteins p64--78 and p55--61, and, lastly, AFA, constitute largely overlapping autoantibody populations. These results show that deiminated forms of fibrin deposited in the rheumatoid synovial membranes are the major target of AFA. They suggest that autoimmunization against deiminated fibrin is a critical step in RA pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • Autoantigens / chemistry
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Epitopes / metabolism
  • Fibrin / chemistry
  • Fibrin / immunology
  • Fibrin / metabolism*
  • Fibrinogen / chemistry
  • Fibrinogen / immunology
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Humans
  • Imines / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / chemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / immunology*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Synovial Membrane / chemistry
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology*
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Epitopes
  • FLG protein, human
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Imines
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Fibrin
  • Fibrinogen