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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008 May;47(5):567-71. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken014. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

Consequence of neo-antigenicity of the 'altered self'.

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  • 1Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon EX1 2LU, UK.


Post-translational modifications play a central role in determining the function of proteins. Such protein modifications come in a great variety of guises, and include phosphorylation, proteolysis, glycosylation, citrullination and oxidative modifications. In relation to inflammatory autoimmune diseases, some post-translational modifications appear to result in the generation of new antigens, and hence autoantibodies. Examples include: the induction of peptide immunogenicity by the spontaneous conversion of aspartic acid residues to isoaspartic acid; granzyme B-mediated cleavage of SLE autoantigens; the oxidative modification--on the surface of apoptotic cells--of lipids and proteins, rendering them immunogenic; and the presence of antibodies to oxidatively modified type II collagen and C1q in RA and SLE patients, respectively. The measurement of autoantibodies to citrullinated proteins has been verified as a very useful diagnostic tool in RA. Proteomics techniques, in principle, allow the detection of all types of in vivo protein modifications, and the increasing application of such technologies to the study of rheumatological diseases will further our understanding of autoantigenicity.

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