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Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Dec;52(12):3868-72.

Antiferritin antibodies discovered by phage display expression cloning are associated with radiographic damage in rheumatoid arthritis.

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  • 1Division of Genomic Medicine, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



Several autoantibodies have been described in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), leading to interest in the use of such antibodies as diagnostic or prognostic markers in RA as well as in their relevance to disease pathology. The objective of this study was to use a phage display expression cloning system to identify novel autoantibody targets in RA.


We used immunoscreening of a phage-displayed complementary DNA (cDNA) library to isolate a cDNA clone encoding the ferritin heavy chain polypeptide. Antiferritin antibody levels in patients with early and established RA, healthy controls, and disease controls were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Antibody-positive and antibody-negative individuals were compared with respect to disease severity as measured by the modified Larsen score, demographic variables, rheumatoid factor status, and carriage of HLA-DRB1 shared epitope alleles.


Antiferritin antibodies were present in 60 (16%) of 366 patients with established RA, 23 (19%) of 118 patients with early RA, 2 (2.7%) of 73 healthy blood donors, 2 (2.1%) of 94 individuals with osteoarthritis, and 2 (2.1%) of 97 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (P < 0.01, RA patients versus healthy and disease controls). Antiferritin antibodies were more common in men than in women (28.4% versus 12.2%; P < 0.001), and antiferritin levels were associated with the severity of joint damage (P = 0.01).


Antiferritin antibodies are observed in a subset of patients with RA, are present early in the disease course, and are associated with the severity of radiographic damage. Further studies are required to explore their potential as diagnostic and prognostic markers in RA.

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