Anti-citrullinated protein/peptide antibodies (ACPA) have recently emerged as sensitive and specific serological markers of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), providing superior alternative of the rheumatoid factor (RF) test in the laboratory diagnostics of RA. Citrullination is a post-translational modification of arginine by deimination, physiologically occurring during apoptosis, inflammation or keratinization. The presence of several citrullinated proteins has been demonstrated in the RA synovium. The identification of citrullinated epitopes as targets led to the development of the first and later second-generation anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibody assays. The anti-Sa antibody has been identified a decade ago; however, recent studies confirmed that anti-Sa is directed against citrullinated vimentin. The determination of ACPA may have important prognostic significance, since ACPA production can precede the onset of clinical RA symptoms by years. ACPA(+) individuals with early, undifferentiated arthritis may have higher risk to develop RA. ACPA has important prognostic role during the progression of RA and it has also been associated with pronounced radiographic progression. ACPA production has been associated with several genetic predisposing factors, including HLA-DRB1 and PTPN22 1858T alleles, as well as with environmental and lifestyle-related factors, primarily smoking and possibly, the use of oral contraceptives and excessive caffeine intake. Thus, the assessment of ACPA, in addition to clinical, radiographic and genetic outcome measures may be important to assess disease prognosis and aids to design effective, early therapeutic strategies.
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