Anti-vinculin antibodies in scleroderma (SSc): a potential link between autoimmunity and gastrointestinal system involvement in two SSc cohorts

Clin Rheumatol. 2021 Jun;40(6):2277-2284. doi: 10.1007/s10067-020-05479-5. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disorder and commonly presents with vascular system involvement and motility disorders in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Vinculin is a cytoskeletal protein that plays major roles in cell-cell adhesion and is expressed in the neuromuscular apparatus of the gut. Antibodies to vinculin have been identified as a biomarker of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Our aim was to evaluate serum anti-vinculin antibodies in patients with SSc.

Methods: Patients were recruited from two SSc centers: group I (GI-enriched group), University of Leeds, UK, and Group II (vascular predominant), University of California, Los Angeles. Serum samples of patients recruited from two SSc centres, Group I ( GI enriched group), University of Leeds, UK and Group II (Vascular predominant), University of California, Los Angeles) were collected. Samples from age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers (N = 88) were used as controls.

Results: Group I (GI-enriched group, N = 83) patients were 58 [50-67] years old; 83% were females with a median body mass index (BMI) of 20.3 (21.2 ± 4.5) [18-23]. Group II (vascular-enriched group, N = 72) patients were 58 [50-67] years old; 80% were female, and BMI was 23.9 (21.3-26.9). More subjects in group I had prominent GI involvement (N = 55, 66%) than group II (12, 16%), p ˂ 0.0001. Anti-vinculin antibody levels in SSc group I (1.3 [0.9]) were significantly higher than in HC (0.7 [0.8]; p = 0.002). When pooled, circulating anti-vinculin levels in both SSc groups remained significantly higher than in the HC group (p = 0.02). Higher anti-vinculin levels were associated with higher GI-visual analogue scale (GI-VAS) scores and specifically with GI-VAS scores of ≥ 4 (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that elevated anti-vinculin antibody levels are common in SSc and suggests a potential link between increased anti-vinculin levels and GI tract symptoms.

Key points: • Anti-vinculin antibodies are elevated in systemic sclerosis and are relatively common. • In these SSc patients, anti-vinculin antibodies are associated with higher levels of GI symptoms in SSc. • A potential link between anti-vinculin antibodies and vascular system involvement was shown.

Keywords: Anti-vinculin; GI tract; SSc; Vascular.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autoimmunity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome*
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Scleroderma, Systemic*
  • Vinculin


  • Vinculin