Background: A subset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients have detectable antibodies directed against the peptidyl-arginine deiminase (PAD) enzyme isoforms 3 and 4. Anti-PAD3/4 cross-reactive antibodies (anti-PAD3/4XR) have been shown to lower the calcium threshold required for PAD4 activation, an effect potentially relevant to the pathogenesis of RA-associated interstitial lung disease (ILD).
Methods: RA patients underwent multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) of the chest with interpretation by a pulmonary radiologist for ILD features. A semi-quantitative ILD Score (range 0-32) was calculated. Concurrent serum samples were assessed for antibodies against PAD by immunoprecipitation with radiolabeled PAD3 and PAD4.
Results: Among the 176 RA patients studied, any ILD was observed in 58 (33%) and anti-PAD3/4XR was detected in 19 (11%). The frequency of any ILD among those with anti-PAD3/4XR was 68% vs. 29% among those with no anti-PAD (crude OR = 5.39; p = 0.002) and vs. 27% among those with anti-PAD4 that was not cross-reactive with PAD3 (crude OR = 5.74; p = 0.001). Both associations were stronger after adjustment for relevant confounders (adjusted ORs = 7.22 and 6.61, respectively; both p-values<0.01). Among ever smokers with anti-PAD3/4XR, the adjusted frequency of any ILD was 93% vs. 17% for never smokers without the antibody (adjusted OR = 61.4; p = 0.001, p-value for the interaction of smoking with anti-PAD3/4XR<0.05).
Conclusions: The prevalence and extent of ILD was markedly higher among RA patients with anti-PAD3/4 cross-reactive antibodies, even after accounting for relevant confounders, particularly among ever smokers. These findings may suggest etiopathologic mechanisms of RA-ILD, and their clinical utility for predicting ILD warrants additional study.