Send to

Choose Destination
Arthritis Res Ther. 2016 Dec 1;18(1):284.

Antibody responses to de novo identified citrullinated fibrinogen peptides in rheumatoid arthritis and visualization of the corresponding B cells.

Author information

Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, 17176, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences and Institute for Molecules and Materials, Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands.
Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, 17176, Stockholm, Sweden.



Antibodies against citrullinated proteins (ACPA) are common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). ACPA can appear before disease onset and target many self-antigens. Citrullinated fibrin/fibrinogen represents a classical ACPA target antigen, and mass spectrometry of RA synovial fluid reveals elevated citrullinated (cit) fibrinogen (Fib) peptides compared to non-RA controls. We investigated the extent to which these less-studied peptides represent autoantibody targets and sought to visualize the corresponding cit-Fib-reactive B cells in RA patients.


An in-house ELISA was established against four cit-Fib α-subunit peptides (cit-Fib α-35; cit-Fib α-216,218; cit-Fib α-263,271 and cit-Fib α-425,426) and serum from patients with established RA (n = 347) and disease controls with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) or ankylosing spondylitis (AS) (n = 236) were analyzed. RA patients were genotyped for HLA-DR alleles, PTPN22 R620W and screened for anti-CCP2 and cit-Fib protein antibodies. The cit-Fib peptides were also used to assemble antigen tetramers to identify cit-Fib-reactive B cells in peripheral blood by flow cytometry.


The frequencies of autoantibodies against different cit-Fib epitopes in RA patients compared to PsA/AS patients were: cit-Fib α-35 (RA 20%, vs PsA/AS 1%); cit-Fib α-216,218 (13% vs 0.5%); cit-Fib α-263,271 (21% vs 0.5%) and cit-Fib α-425,426 (17% vs 1%). The presence of autoantibodies against these peptides was associated with presence of anti-CCP2 and anti-cit-Fib protein antibodies. No association was found between HLA-DR shared epitope and antibodies to the different cit-Fib peptides. However, association was observed between the PTPN22 risk allele and positivity to cit-Fib α-35 and cit-Fib α-263,271. B cells carrying surface Ig reactive to these cit-Fib peptides were found in RA peripheral blood and these tend to be more common in PTPN22 risk allele carriers.


Our data show that several cit-Fib peptides are targeted by autoantibodies in RA, but not in PsA/AS, implicating that these are not due to arthritis but more specific for RA etiology. The RA-associated anti-cit protein response is broad with many parallel immune responses. The association between cit-Fib autoantibodies and the PTPN22 R620W risk allele supports the hypothesis of altered B cell regulation, such as autoreactive B cells evading tolerance checkpoints.


ACPA; Autoantibodies; Fibrinogen; PTPN22; Rheumatoid arthritis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center