Novel autoantibody markers for early and seronegative rheumatoid arthritis

J Autoimmun. 2011 Feb;36(1):33-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2010.10.003. Epub 2010 Nov 10.


Approximately one-third of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are seronegative for the 2 serological RA markers, rheumatoid factor (RF) and antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptides (ACCP). Moreover, the sensitivities of both markers are lower in the diagnostically important early disease phase. The aim of this study was to identify additional autoantibody markers for early RA and for RF-negative, ACCP-negative (seronegative) RA. We screened an RA synovium cDNA phage display library with autoantibodies in plasma from 10 early (symptoms of maximum 1 year) and 10 seronegative (RF-negative, ACCP-negative) RA patients with validation in 72 additional RA patients and 121 controls (38 healthy controls, 43 patients with other inflammatory rheumatic diseases, 20 osteoarthritis patients and 20 subjects with mechanical joint complaints). Fourteen novel autoantibodies were identified that showed a 54% sensitivity and 90% specificity for RA. For 11 of these autoantibodies, an exclusive presence was demonstrated in RA patients (100% specificity, 37% sensitivity) as compared to controls. All early RA patients were positive for at least one of the identified autoantibodies and antibody-positivity was associated with a shorter disease duration (P = 0.0087). 52% of RA patients who initially tested negative for RF and ACCP, tested positive for at least one of the 14 novel autoantibodies, resulting in a 19% increase in sensitivity compared to current serological testing. Moreover, 5 identified autoantibodies were detected more frequently in seronegative RA patients, indicating that these autoantibodies constitute novel candidate markers for this RA subtype. We demonstrated that the targets of 3 of these 5 autoantibodies had an increased expression in RA synovial tissue compared to control synovial tissue, pointing towards a biological rationale for these auto antibody targets in RA. In conclusion, we identified novel candidate autoantibody markers for RA that can be detected in early and seronegative RA patients indicating the potential added value for RA diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Autoantibodies* / blood
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Gene Library
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers