IgA cross-reactivity between a nuclear autoantigen and wheat proteins suggests molecular mimicry as a possible pathomechanism in celiac disease

Eur J Immunol. 2001 Mar;31(3):918-28. doi: 10.1002/1521-4141(200103)31:3<918::aid-immu918>3.0.co;2-u.


Celiac disease patients display IgA antibody reactivity to wheat as well as to human proteins. We used serum IgA from celiac patients and, for control purposes, from patients with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and from healthy individuals to identify celiac disease-specific IgA autoantigens in nitrocellulose-blotted extracts from various human cell types (epithelial, endothelial, intestinal cells, fibroblasts). The pattern, recognition intensity and time course of IgA autoreactivity was monitored using serial serum samples obtained from celiac children before and under gluten-free diet. By immunoblot inhibition and subcellular (cytosolic, nuclear) cell fractionation we identified a 55 kDa nuclear autoantigen expressed in intestinal, endothelial cells and in fibroblasts which was recognized by IgA antibodies of approximately half of the celiac disease patients and cross-reacted with wheat proteins. IgA reactivity to the 55 kDa autoantigen disappeared during gluten-free diet and was inhibited after pre-absorption of sera with wheat proteins but not with tissue transglutaminase, previously reported as the unique celiac disease-specific autoantigen. In conclusion, we defined a novel 55 kDa celiac disease-specific nuclear IgA autoantigen which shares epitopes with wheat proteins and which is different from tissue transglutaminase and calreticulin. Although the newly defined autoantigen was recognized much less frequently than tissue transglutaminase, our data suggest molecular mimicry between wheat and human proteins as a possible pathomechanism for the induction and/or maintenance of mucosal tissue damage in celiac disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / immunology
  • Calreticulin
  • Celiac Disease / diagnosis
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Cell Extracts / immunology
  • Cell Line
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colon / immunology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Endothelium / immunology
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / immunology
  • Glutens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Mimicry*
  • Nuclear Proteins / immunology
  • Ribonucleoproteins / immunology
  • Triticum / immunology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calreticulin
  • Cell Extracts
  • Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Ribonucleoproteins
  • Glutens