Introduction: Rheumatoid arthritis-associated autoantibodies (RA-AAB) can be present in serum years before clinical onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It has been hypothesized that initiation of RA-AAB generation occurs at inflamed mucosal surfaces, such as in the oral cavity or lungs. The aim of this study was to assess systemic presence of RA-AAB in patients without RA who had oral or lung mucosal inflammation.
Methods: The presence of RA-AAB (immunoglobulin A [IgA] and IgG anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide 2 antibodies (anti-CCP2), IgM and IgA rheumatoid factor (RF), IgG anti-carbamylated protein antibodies and IgG and IgA anti-citrullinated peptide antibodies against fibrinogen, vimentin and enolase) were determined in sera of non-RA patients with periodontitis (PD, n = 114), bronchiectasis (BR, n = 80) or cystic fibrosis (CF, n = 41). Serum RA-AAB levels were compared with those of periodontally healthy controls (n = 36). Patients with established RA (n = 86) served as a reference group. Association of the diseases with RA-AAB seropositivity was assessed with a logistic regression model, adjusted for age, sex and smoking.
Results: Logistic regression analysis revealed that IgG anti-CCP seropositivity was associated with BR and RA, whereas the association with PD was borderline significant. IgA anti-CCP seropositivity was associated with CF and RA. IgM RF seropositivity was associated with RA, whereas the association with BR was borderline significant. IgA RF seropositivity was associated with CF and RA. Apart from an influence of smoking on IgA RF in patients with RA, there was no influence of age, sex or smoking on the association of RA-AAB seropositivity with the diseases. Anti-CarP levels were increased only in patients with RA. The same held for IgG reactivity against all investigated citrullinated peptides.
Conclusion: Although overall levels were low, RA-AAB seropositivity was associated with lung mucosal inflammation (BR and CF) and may be associated with oral mucosal inflammation (PD). To further determine whether mucosal inflammation functions as a site for induction of RA-AAB and precedes RA, longitudinal studies are necessary in which RA-AAB of specifically the IgA isotype should be assessed in inflamed mucosal tissues and/or in their inflammatory exudates.