Purpose: Citrullination is a post-translational modification of arginine residues to citrulline catalyzed by peptidyl arginine deiminases. Induced expression of citrullinated proteins are frequently detected in various inflammatory states including arthritis; however, direct detection of citrullination in arthritic samples has not been successfully performed in the past.
Experimental design: Citrullination of human fibrinogen, a candidate autoantigen in arthritis, was studied. Accurate identification of citrullinated fibrinogen peptides from rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue specimens was performed using accurate mass and retention time analysis.
Results: A peptide with the sequence ESSSHHPGIAEFPSRGK corresponding to amino acids 559-575 of fibrinogen α-chain was identified to be citrullinated with an occupancy rate between 1.4 and 2.5%. Citrullination of the peptide KREEAPSLRPAPPPISGGGYRARPAK corresponding to amino acids 52-77 of the fibrinogen β-chain was identified with an occupancy rate of 1.2%.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: We report a proof of principle study for the identification of citrullinated proteins and within them, identification of citrullination sites and quantification of their occupancies in synovial tissue from rheumatoid arthritis patients using high-resolution MS. Detailed studies on which molecules are citrullinated in arthritis can provide information about their role in immune regulation and serve as novel biomarkers and potentially even as therapeutic targets.
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