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Arthritis Rheum. 2002 May;46(5):1185-95.

Identification of citrullinated rheumatoid arthritis-specific epitopes in natural filaggrin relevant for antifilaggrin autoantibody detection by line immunoassay.

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Immune Diseases Group, Innogenetics NV, Ghent, Belgium.



To identify immunodominant epitopes in natural filaggrin that are reactive with antifilaggrin autoantibodies (AFA) in the sera of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to explore their use in a diagnostic assay format.


Based on the results of epitope mapping of human natural filaggrin as well as molecular modeling and computational chemistry, synthetic peptides together with recombinant citrullinated filaggrin were evaluated by a line immunoassay (LIA) for AFA detection. Diagnostic performance was assessed using 336 RA and 253 disease control sera and was compared with that of reference methods.


Several immunoreactive epitopes were identified in natural filaggrin, all of which contained at least 1 citrulline residue. Three antigenic substrates, including 2 synthetic peptides and recombinant citrullinated filaggrin showing maximal reactivity on LIA, were finally selected. Using the 3-antigen LIA3, overall sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value for RA were 65.2%, 98.0%, and 89.1%, respectively, compared with 61.9%, 98.8%, and 92.8% using the 2-antigen LIA2 (without recombinant protein). Thirty-seven percent of the rheumatoid factor (RF)-negative RA samples (30 of 81) were AFA-positive by LIA2, and 52 of 54 RF-positive control samples had no AFA detected on LIA2. Higher specificity and sensitivity were obtained by LIA2 versus anti-RA33 immunoblot, whereas good agreement was observed with antikeratin antibody testing. LIA performed significantly better than AFA immunoblotting using natural filaggrin, at a specificity level of 99% (P = 0.0047).


Citrullinated residues are present in immunoreactive epitopes of natural human filaggrin. AFA can be readily detected by citrullinated peptides in an LIA-based test, resulting in high specificity and positive predictive value for RA. The LIA could serve as a user-friendly alternative to existing immunofluorescence tests and AFA immunoblot techniques. Given its complementarity to RF, this test can be a valuable tool in the differential diagnosis of arthritis.

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