Introduction: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with hypogalactosylation of immunoglobulin G (IgG). We examined whether a proxy measure for galactosylation of IgG N-glycans could predict response to therapy or was differentially affected by methotrexate (MTX) or TNF blockade.
Methods: Using a previously defined normal phase high-performance liquid chromatography approach, we ascertained the galactosylation status of whole serum N-glycans in two well-defined RA clinical cohorts: the Autoimmune Biomarkers Collaborative Network (n = 98) and Nested I (n = 64). The ratio of agalactosylated to monogalactosylated N-glycans in serum (sG0/G1) was determined before and during therapy with MTX or TNF inhibition and correlated with anticitrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA) status and clinical response as assessed by 28-joint Disease Activity Score utilizing C-reactive peptide and European League Against Rheumatism response criteria.
Results: RA patients from both cohorts exhibited elevation of sG0/G1 at baseline. Improvement in clinical scores correlated with a reduction in sG0/G1 (Spearman's ρ = 0.31 to 0.37; P < 0.05 for each cohort). However, pretreatment sG0/G1 was not predictive of clinical response. Changes in sG0/G1 were similar in the MTX and TNF inhibitor groups. Corrected for disease activity, ACPA positivity correlated with higher sG0/G1.
Conclusions: Baseline serum N-glycan hypogalactosylation, an index previously correlated with hypogalactosylation of IgG N-glycans, did not distinguish patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were likely to experience a favorable clinical response to MTX or TNF blockade. Clinical improvement was associated with partial glycan normalization. ACPA-positive patients demonstrated enhanced N-glycan aberrancy compared with ACPA-negative patients.