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Clin Exp Immunol. 2000 May;120(2):384-91.

Fine specificity of autoantibodies to calreticulin: epitope mapping and characterization.

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MRC Immunochemistry Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Extracellular calreticulin (CRT) as well as anti-CRT antibodies have been reported in patients with various autoimmune disorders and CRT has been implicated in 'epitope spreading' to other autoantigens such as the Ro/SS-A complex. In addition, antibodies against parasite forms of the endoplasmic reticulum chaperone, CRT, have been found in patients suffering from onchocerciasis and schistosomiasis. In this study, we screened sera for anti-CRT antibodies from patients with active and inactive systemic lupus ertythematosus (SLE) and primary or secondary Sjögren's syndrome. Approximately 40% of all SLE patients were positive for anti-CRT antibodies. The antigenic regions of CRT were determined using full length CRT and fragments of CRT prepared in yeast and Escherichia coli, respectively. Synthetic 15mer peptides corresponding to the major autoantigenic region of CRT (amino acids 1-289), each one overlapping by 12 amino acids, were used to map the B cell epitopes on the CRT protein recognized by autoimmune sera. Major antigenic epitopes were found to be associated with the N-terminal half of the protein in 69% of the SLE sera from active disease patients, while the C-domain was not antigenic. Major epitopes were found to be reactive with antibodies in sera from SLE patients with both active and inactive disease, spanning different regions of the N and P-domains. Sera from both healthy and disease controls and primary Sjögren's syndrome patients were non-reactive to these sequences. Limited proteolysis of CRT with two major leucocyte serine proteases, elastase and cathepsin G, demonstrated that an N-terminal region of CRT is resistant to digestion. Interestingly, some of the epitopes with the highest reactivity belong to the fragments of the protein which bind to C1q and inhibit complement activation. Whether C1q association with CRT is a pathological or protective interaction between these two proteins is currently under investigation.

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