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Arthritis Rheum. 1999 Feb;42(2):199-209.

Fine specificity of the autoimmune response to the Ro/SSA and La/SSB ribonucleoproteins.

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  • 1Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma City 73104, USA.

Abstract

The fine specificity of the Ro and La proteins has been studied by several techniques. In general, there is agreement in a qualitative sense that autoantibodies bind multiple epitopes. For some specific antibody binding, different studies agree quantitatively, for instance, the binding of the carboxyl terminus of 60-kd Ro as described by 2 studies using different techniques and the presence of an epitope within the leucine zipper of 52-kd Ro. In addition, there is general agreement about the location of a prominent epitope at the RRM motif region of the La molecule. On the other hand, the many specific epitope regions of the molecules differ among these studies. These discrepancies are likely the result of using different techniques, sera, and peptide constructs as well as a result of inherent advantages and disadvantages in the individual approaches. Several theories concerning the origin of not only the antibodies, but also the diseases themselves, have been generated from studies of the fine specificity of antibody binding. These include a theory of a primordial foreign antigen for anti-Ro autoimmunity, molecular mimicry with regard to La and CCHB, as well as the association of anti-Ro with HLA. These remain unproven, but are of continuing interest. An explanation for the association of anti-60-kd Ro and anti-52-kd Ro in the sera of patients has sprung from evaluating antibody binding. Data demonstrating multiple epitopes are part of a large body of evidence that strongly suggests an antigen-driven immune response. This means that the autoantigens are directly implicated in initiating and sustaining autoimmunity in their associated diseases. A number of studies have investigated the possibility of differences in the immune response to these antigens in SS and SLE sera. While several differences have been reported, none have been reproduced in a second cohort of patients. Furthermore, none of the reported differences may be sufficiently robust for clinical purposes, such as distinguishing between SS with systemic features and mild SLE, although some might be promising. For instance, in at least 3 groups of SLE patients, no binding of residues spanning amino acids 21-41 of 60-kd Ro has been found. Meanwhile, 1 of those studies found that 41% of sera from patients with primary SS bound the 60-kd Ro peptide 21-41. Perhaps future studies will elaborate a clinical role of such a difference among SS and SLE patients. Study of the epitopes of these autoantigens has, in part, led to a new animal model of anti-Ro and anti-La. Non-autoimmune-prone animals are immunized with proteins or peptides that make up the Ro/La RNP. Such animals develop an autoimmune response to the entire particle, not just the immunogen. This response has been hypothesized to arise from autoreactive B cells. In another, older animal model of disease, the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse, B cells have recently been shown to be required for the generation of abnormal, autoreactive T cells. Thus, there are now powerful data indicating that B cells that produce autoantibodies are directly involved in the pathogenesis of disease above and beyond the formation of immune complexes. Given that the autoreactive B cell is potentially critical to the underlying pathogenesis of disease, then studying these cells will be crucial to further understanding the origin of diseases associated with Ro and La autoimmunity. Hopefully, an increased understanding will eventually lead to improved treatment of patients. Progress in the area of treatment will almost surely be incremental, and studies of the fine specificity of autoantibody binding will be a part of the body of basic knowledge contributing to ultimate advancement. In the future, the animal models will need to be examined with regard to immunology and immunochemistry as well as genetics. The development of these autoantibodies has not been studied extensively because upon presentation to medical care, virtually all patients have a full-

PMID:
10025913
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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