Autoreactive B cells have a central role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and recent findings have proposed that anti-citrullinated protein autoantibodies (ACPA) may be directly pathogenic. Herein, we demonstrate the frequency of variable-region glycosylation in single-cell cloned mAbs. A total of 14 ACPA mAbs were evaluated for predicted N-linked glycosylation motifs in silico, and compared to 452 highly-mutated mAbs from RA patients and controls. Variable region N-linked motifs (N-X-S/T) were strikingly prevalent within ACPA (100%) compared to somatically hypermutated (SHM) RA bone marrow plasma cells (21%), and synovial plasma cells from seropositive (39%) and seronegative RA (7%). When normalized for SHM, ACPA still had significantly higher frequency of N-linked motifs compared to all studied mAbs including highly mutated HIV broadly-neutralizing and malaria-associated mAbs. The Fab glycans of ACPA-mAbs were highly sialylated, contributed to altered charge, but did not influence antigen binding. The analysis revealed evidence of unusual B-cell selection pressure and SHM-mediated decrease in surface charge and isoelectric point in ACPA. It is still unknown how these distinct features of anti-citrulline immunity may have an impact on pathogenesis. However, it is evident that they offer selective advantages for ACPA+ B cells, possibly through non-antigen driven mechanisms.
Keywords: Anti-CCP; Anti-citrullinated protein autoantibodies; Autoreactive B cells; Fab glycosylation; N-linked glycosylation.
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