Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies: how are they detected and what is their use for diagnosis, classification and follow-up?

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Dec;43(3):211-9. doi: 10.1007/s12016-012-8320-4.


Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are traditionally detected by an indirect immunofluorescence technique. According to the international consensus on ANCA testing, ANCA should also be tested by antigen-specific tests for myeloperoxidase-ANCA and proteinase 3-ANCA. The direct noncompetitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) used to be the method of choice. Nowadays, these assays are called "first-generation" assays. Second-generation tests (capture ELISA) or third-generation tests (anchor ELISA) are more sensitive and specific for ANCA testing. We postulate that ANCA as detected by these newer ANCA tests may replace the need to perform indirect immunofluorescence-based assays. For classification of patients, ANCA serotype seems more important than classifying patients according to their clinical subtype, since genetics, clinical manifestations and response to therapy are more related to ANCA serotype than to clinical subtype. Detection of ANCA to monitor disease activity is still a controversial issue. Treatment based on ANCA levels is at present only experimentally performed in those patients who are treated with B-cell depletion therapy with rituximab. Future studies are needed to establish whether this way of monitoring patients is warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic / chemistry*
  • Antibodies, Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic / immunology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect / methods*
  • Humans
  • Myeloblastin / immunology*
  • Peroxidase / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic
  • Peroxidase
  • Myeloblastin