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Clin Exp Immunol. 2007 May;148(2):230-40. Epub 2007 Feb 7.

Affinity maturation of immunoglobulin A anti-tissue transglutaminase autoantibodies during development of coeliac disease.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacy, Abo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.


Coeliac disease (CD) is an immune-mediated enteropathy triggered by ingestion of wheat gluten and related cereals in genetically predisposed individuals. Circulating immunoglobulin A (IgA) class autoantibodies against tissue transglutaminase (IgA-TGA) are highly specific and sensitive serological markers for CD, which is ultimately confirmed by duodenal biopsy. Although CD is considered a life-long disorder, transient or fluctuating IgA-TGA seropositivity has been observed in asymptomatic individuals on a gluten-containing diet. We set out to explore possible differences in the maturation of IgA-TGA avidity between individuals progressing to CD and subjects remaining healthy despite occasional expression of autoantibodies. We developed a time-resolved fluorometric IgA-TGA assay based on human recombinant tissue transglutaminase (tTG), and further modified the method to also measure urea-dependent avidity of the autoantibodies. We measured the autoantibody titres and avidities of sequential serum samples from 10 children developing CD and 10 children presenting transient or fluctuating autoantibodies. Both the initial titres at seroconversion and peak values of transient/fluctuating IgA-TGA were significantly lower than corresponding autoantibody titres in samples drawn from individuals with progressing CD (P = 0.004 and P = 0.0002, respectively). However, there were no statistically significant differences in the initial or peak avidity index values between the two groups of children. The avidity index values increased during the follow-up period (P = 0.013 for both groups) with no significant difference in the rate of avidity maturation between children with transient/fluctuating IgA-TGA and children developing CD. According to our results, high autoantibody titres have a higher predictive value than avidity maturation of TGA-IgA in screening for CD.

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