Nucleolar staining cannot be used as a screening test for the scleroderma marker anti-RNA polymerase I/III antibodies

Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Sep;54(9):3051-6. doi: 10.1002/art.22043.


Objective: Anti-RNA polymerase I/III (anti-RNAP I/III) antibodies are clinically useful markers of scleroderma, and their presence is associated with diffuse skin disease and an increased risk of cardiac and kidney involvement. Although RNAP I antibodies localize to the nucleolus, nucleolar staining by many anti-RNAP antibody-positive sera is not always observed. Nucleolar staining by anti-RNAP antibody-positive sera was examined by double staining with antifibrillarin antibodies to evaluate whether nucleolar staining can be used as a screening test for anti-RNAP I/III antibodies. In addition, the relationships between nucleolar staining and levels of anti-RNAP III antibodies were examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunoprecipitation (IP) assay.

Methods: Sera were tested using immunofluorescent antinuclear antibodies on HEp-2 cell slides, by anti-RNAP III ELISA, and by IP assay using (35)S-labeled K562 cell extract. Nucleolar staining by anti-RNAP antibody IP-positive sera was confirmed by double staining using antifibrillarin monoclonal antibodies. The levels of anti-RNAP III antibodies were quantitated by ELISA and by IP assay using a serially diluted reference serum as a standard, and their relationship was analyzed.

Results: All 18 anti-RNAP I/III antibody-positive sera showed nuclear speckled patterns, but nucleolar staining was readily noticeable in only 44% of the sera. A positive correlation was found between ELISA and IP units for anti-RNAP III antibodies. The levels of anti-RNAP III antibodies and anti-RNAP I antibodies correlated well, with the exception of a few sera. Levels of anti-RNAP III antibodies were low in sera with nucleolar staining, whereas several sera with high levels of anti-RNAP I antibodies clearly showed nucleolar staining.

Conclusion: Although some sera positive for anti-RNAP I/III antibodies clearly stain nucleoli, nucleolar staining is inconsistent and cannot be used to screen for anti-RNAP I/III antibodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleolus / enzymology*
  • Cell Nucleolus / immunology
  • Humans
  • RNA Polymerase I / immunology*
  • RNA Polymerase III / immunology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / enzymology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / pathology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • RNA Polymerase I
  • RNA Polymerase III