Autoantibodies against RNA polymerases (RNAP) have been reported to occur in patients with a wide variety of connective tissue diseases (CTD), including systemic sclerosis (SSc), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD). The frequency of anti-RNAP antibodies has been reported to vary widely between different CTD diseases in studies examining different patient populations. Furthermore, these studies have been limited by the fact that methods have not previously been available for detecting antibodies against RNAP which are both rapid and quantitative. We have developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for rapidly quantitating antibodies against RNAP I, II, and III. We have utilized both the ELISA and the immunoprecipitation of 35S-labeled HeLa cells to analyze sera from a large cohort of well-characterized Caucasian CTD patients for the presence of anti-RNAP antibodies. We found excellent concordance for the presence of anti-RNAP antibodies using immunoprecipitation and ELISA. Anti-RNAP antibodies occurred predominantly among female patients with the diffuse form of SSc and were detected in 8/36 (22%) of Caucasian patients with diffuse SSc and 1/53 (2%) with limited SSc. Anti-RNAP antibodies occurred in 1/42 (2%) of patients with SLE. Anti-RNAP antibodies did not occur in MCTD (0/49). Antibodies against RNAP were rare among antinucleolar-reactive sera, occurring in only 3/200 (1.5%). The RNAP ELISA provides a validated method which can be rapidly utilized in a clinical diagnostic laboratory setting to identify SSc patients who are at risk for developing diffuse SSc with multiorgan involvement and hypertensive renal crisis.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.