Anti-LL37 Antibodies Are Present in Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) Patients: New Biomarkers in PsA

Front Immunol. 2018 Sep 12;9:1936. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01936. eCollection 2018.


Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis associated with psoriasis. A third of psoriatic patients develop PsA via unknown mechanisms. No reliable diagnostic markers are available for PsA, or prognostic biomarkers for PsA development in psoriasis. We previously uncovered a pro-inflammatory role for cathelicidin LL37 in lesional psoriasis skin. LL37 binds nucleic acids and stimulates plasmacytoid/myeloid dendritic cells (pDC, mDCs) to secrete type I interferon (IFN-I) and pro-inflammatory factors. LL37 becomes an autoantigen for psoriatic Th1-Th17/CD8 T cells. Anti-LL37 antibodies were detected in systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease characterized by neutrophil-extracellular-traps release (NETosis) in target organs. LL37 can be substrate of irreversible post-translational modifications, citrullination or carbamylation, linked to neutrophil activity. Here we analyzed inflammatory factors, included LL37, in PsA and psoriasis plasma and PsA synovial fluids (SF)/biopsies. We show that LL37 (as a product of infiltrating neutrophils) and autoantibodies to LL37 are elevated in PsA, but not OA SF. Anti-LL37 antibodies correlate with clinical inflammatory markers. Anti-carbamylated/citrullinated-LL37 antibodies are present in PsA SF/plasma and, at lower extent, in psoriasis plasma, but not in controls. Plasma anti-carbamylated-LL37 antibodies correlate with PsA (DAS44) but not psoriasis (PASI) disease activity. Ectopic lymphoid structures, and deposition of immunoglobulin-(Ig)G-complexes (IC) co-localizing with infiltrating neutrophils, are observed in PsA and not OA synovial tissues (ST). Activated complement (C5a, C9), GM-CSF and IFN-I are up-regulated in PsA and not OA synovia and in PsA and psoriasis plasma but not in HD. C9 and GM-CSF levels in PsA SF correlate with clinical inflammatory markers and DAS44 (C9) and with anti-carbamylated/citrullinated-LL37 antibodies (GM-CSF and IFN-I). Thus, we uncover a role for LL37 as a novel PsA autoantibody target and correlation studies suggest participation of anti-LL37 antibodies to PsA pathogenesis. Notably, plasma antibodies to carbamylated-LL37, which correlate with DAS44, suggest their use as new disease activity markers. GM-CSF and complement C5a and C9 elevation may be responsible for autoantigens release by neutrophils and their modification, fueling inflammation and autoreactivity establishment. Finally, targeting GM-CSF, C5a, C9 can be beneficial in PsA.

Keywords: LL37; Psoriatic arthritis; autoantibodies complement; neutrophils; psoriasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / immunology*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / immunology*
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / metabolism
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cathelicidins
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Protein Carbamylation / immunology
  • Synovial Fluid / immunology*
  • Synovial Fluid / metabolism


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Cathelicidins