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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2007 Aug 15;4(5):465-8.

Potential etiologic agents in sarcoidosis.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 5501 Hopkins Bayview Circle, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


The etiology of sarcoidosis remains uncertain. The hallmark of sarcoidosis is the epithelioid granuloma, which serves as a necessary starting point for considering disease etiology. Any etiologic agent of sarcoidosis must also explain the typical clinical behaviors and characteristic immunopathologic features of the disease. One clinical observation that serves as a bridge to the etiology of sarcoidosis is the Kveim reaction. In this reaction, local epithelioid granulomas develop several weeks after the intradermal injection of homogenates of sarcoidosis tissue. Our group capitalized on the known properties of the Kveim reagent to search for candidate pathogenic tissue antigens in sarcoidosis without other a priori hypotheses regarding possible microbial or autoimmune etiologies. Using a limited proteomics approach based on the physicochemical properties of Kveim reagent, we detected a limited number of poorly soluble antigenic proteins in sarcoidosis tissues by protein immunoblotting, using sarcoidosis sera. Matrix-associated laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry identified one of these antigens to be the Mycobacterium tuberculosis catalase-peroxidase protein (mKatG). We found IgG responses to recombinant mKatG in more than 50% of patients with sarcoidosis but rarely in purified protein derivative (PPD)-negative control subjects. These findings support the conclusion that mKatG is a tissue antigen and target of the adaptive immune response in sarcoidosis, providing further evidence of a mycobacterial etiology in a subset of sarcoidosis. More generally, the approach used in these studies might be employed to discover and validate other candidate pathogenic antigens in sarcoidosis or other granulomatous disorders.

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