Bone-specific antibodies in sera from patients with celiac disease: characterization and implications in osteoporosis

J Clin Immunol. 2002 Nov;22(6):353-62. doi: 10.1023/a:1020786315956.


Osteopenia and osteoporosis are well-known complications detected in celiac disease patients with still obscure pathogenesis. In the present study we investigated the presence of circulating anti-bone autoantibodies in patients with celiac disease and explored their role in the associated bone disease. We evaluated serum samples from 33 patients at the time of diagnosis and from 20 of them after treatment. Sera from patients with inflammatory bowel disease (n = 9), nonceliac osteoporotic (n = 18), and healthy individuals (n = 10) were used as controls. The presence of IgA specific anti-bone antibodies was first investigated using indirect immunofluorescence on cryosections of fetal rat tibia (20-day pregnancy). Furthermore, samples were homogenized and total tissue extracts were subjected to Western blot analysis to confirm immunoreactivity. At diagnosis, sera from 51.5% (17/33) of celiac patients had antibodies that recognized antigenic structures in chondrocytes and the extracellular matrix along mature cartilage, bone interface, and perichondrium of fetal rat bone. Among controls, only two osteoporotic patients showed very low titles of anti-bone autoantibodies. The immunostaining was localized in areas where an active mineralization process occurred and was similar to the distribution of the native bone tissue transglutaminase. The frequency of patients with positive baseline titers of anti-bone antibodies diminished significantly after treatment (P = 0.048). Western blot assays confirmed the presence of autoantibodies in sera from patients with a positive immunofluorescence staining. Autoantibodies recognized a major protein band on tissue extracts with a molecular weight of 77-80 kDa, which could be displaced when sera were preadsorbed with human recombinant tissue transglutaminase. We provide original evidence that patients with celiac disease have IgA-type circulating autoantibodies against intra- and extracellular structures of fetal rat tibia. Our findings suggest that these antibodies recognize bone tissue transglutaminase as the autoantigen, and based on the localization of the immunoreactivity we speculate that they might have an active role in the pathophysiology of celiac disease-associated bone complications.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Bone and Bones / immunology*
  • Celiac Disease / blood
  • Celiac Disease / complications*
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Transglutaminases / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Transglutaminases