Objectives: Autoimmune pancreatitis is characterized by increased serum level of IgG4, but its pathogenesis has not been fully elucidated. Because this disease is occasionally associated with decreased levels of complements, we sought to clarify which complement activation system was operating in its active state.
Methods: We measured serum levels of complements, mannose-binding lectin, and circulating immune complex in patients with autoimmune pancreatitis, patients with chronic pancreatitis, and healthy controls.
Results: We found high serum circulating immune complex values, which decreased significantly after corticosteroid therapy. In patients with autoimmune pancreatitis, elevated levels of circulating immune complex, as determined by C1q assay, were significantly associated with increased serum levels of IgG1 and decreased levels of C4, as well as with a tendency toward decreased levels of C3. There were no significant differences in the serum levels of mannose-binding lectin or in the frequency of a mutant allele of mannose-binding lectin between patients with autoimmune pancreatitis and those with chronic calcifying pancreatitis. Furthermore, corticosteroid therapy had no effect on the level of mannose-binding lectin.
Conclusions: Autoimmune pancreatitis exhibits a high serum circulating immune complex values in its active state, which links to a complement activation system with a classic pathway rather than the mannose-binding lectin pathway or alternative pathways.