Objective: To investigate the role of genetic and environmental factors in the development of anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) and ACPA-positive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in a twin cohort.
Methods: A total of 12 590 twins were analysed for the presence of ACPAs (CCP2 ELISA), HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (SE) gene alleles, and exposure to smoking. Twins with established RA were identified in national public care registers. Antibody reactivities against citrullinated and native forms of α-enolase, vimentin, fibrinogen and type II collagen peptides were tested by ELISA in anti-CCP2-positive subjects and their cotwins. Structural equation models and ORs for the development of ACPA and ACPA-positive RA were computed for smokers and SE carriers.
Results: A total of 2.8% (350/12 590) of the twins were ACPA positive, and 1.0% (124/12 590) had ACPA-positive RA. Most of the variability in the ACPA status was accounted for by non-shared environmental or stochastic factors (78%, 95% CI 55% to 100%) rather than shared environmental and genetic factors. Analysis of specific risk factors revealed an association between smoking and SE and the presence of ACPAs. Twins with ACPA-positive RA were more frequently SE positive than twins with ACPAs without RA. Reactivities against multiple citrullinated peptides were present in most twins with ACPA-positive RA but in fewer twins with ACPAs without RA.
Conclusions: Environment, lifestyle and stochastic factors may be more important than genetics in determining which individuals develop ACPAs. Genetic factors (particularly SE) may have a relatively larger role in determining which ACPA-positive individuals will ultimately develop arthritis.
Keywords: Ant-CCP; Autoantibodies; Rheumatoid Arthritis; Smoking.
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