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Autoimmunity. 1995;22(1):33-42.

Stress-induced cell surface expression and antigenic alteration of the Ro/SSA autoantigen.

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Department of Pediatrics, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


Recent studies have shown that Ro/SSA autoantigen is heterogeneous. There are two isoform families; the 60 kD forms (Ro60) and the 52 kD forms (Ro52). Recently we have found that autoantibodies to the Ro/SSA proteins are conformation dependent. Anti-Ro60 antibodies are mainly directed to the native protein and conversely anti-Ro52 antibodies are directed only to the denatured protein. It has been known that UV irradiation to cultured keratinocytes induces cell surface expression of Ro/SSA and this phenomenon has been thought to be related with photosensitivity in patients with anti-Ro/SSA antibodies. We studied the quantitative and qualitative changes of the Ro/SSA protein induced by stress, such as with heat shock and UV irradiation, and found that only Ro52 could be expressed on the cell surface of human peripheral lymphocytes by either heat shock or UV irradiation. Moreover, flow cytometric analysis revealed that HS-treated and UV-treated lymphocytes could be stained with patient sera, and by using a technique which combined immunoprecipitation and Western immunoblotting, it has been confirmed that Ro52 expressed on the cell surface can be recognized by anti-Ro/SSA antibodies in native form while cytoplasmic Ro52 cannot be recognized. These data suggest that Ro52 can be antigenic in vivo when expressed on the cell surface and may explain the mechanism of direct tissue damage by anti-Ro/SSA antibodies.

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