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Clin Exp Immunol. 1999 Dec;118(3):371-5.

Transglutaminase and coeliac disease: endomysial reactivity and small bowel expression.

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  • 1Gastroenterology Unit, IRCCS Policlinico S. Matteo, University of Pavia, Italy.


This study was aimed at verifying whether tissue transglutaminase (tTG) is the sole autoantigen eliciting anti-endomysial antibodies in coeliac disease (CoD) and investigating tTG expression in normal and coeliac mucosa. Twelve anti-endomysial-positive coeliac sera and 12 anti-endomysial-negative control sera (10 microl, diluted 1:5-1:400 in PBS pH 7.3) were preincubated with 10, 20 or 50 microg guinea pig liver tTG at 4 degrees C overnight. Monkey oesophagus tissue slides were then tested with tTG-preincubated and non-preincubated sera to search for IgA anti-endomysial reactivity by indirect immunofluorescence. Moreover, six sections of monkey oesophagus were incubated with an anti-tTG mouse MoAb, six sections with an anti-cytokeratin mouse MoAb and six sections with only 3% bovine serum albumin. Finally, endoscopic duodenal biopsy sections obtained from 12 patients affected by untreated CoD, six patients affected by treated CoD and 10 biopsied controls were immunohistochemically stained with a peroxidase-conjugated anti-tTG MoAb. Our results show that (i) preincubation with tTG abolished endomysial immunofluorescence in most, but not in all, coeliac sera; (ii) the incubation of anti-tTG MoAb with sections of monkey oesophagus resulted in an immunofluorescence staining pattern similar but not identical to that of anti-endomysial-positive coeliac sera; (iii) although tTG expression was present at muscularis mucosae and pericryptal fibroblast in both normal and coeliac mucosa, it was slightly more marked and evident in the latter. Although our absorption experiment was performed with guinea pig liver tTG, we confirm that tTG is the predominant antigen of endomysial antibodies, but we speculate that, at least in some patients, it is not the only one.

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