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Clinical, immunological, and immunogenetic aspects of autoantibody production against Ro/SSA, La/SSB and their linear epitopes in primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS): a European multicentre study

A G Tzioufas, R Wassmuth, U G Dafni, A Guialis, H-J Haga, D A Isenberg, R Jonsson, J R Kalden, H Kiener, C Sakarellos, J S Smolen, N Sutcliffe, C Vitali, E Yiannaki, H M Moutsopoulos
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2002, 61 (5): 398-404

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the clinical and immunogenetic aspects of antibody formation against Ro/SSA and La/SSB as well as their linear B cell epitopes in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) from different European countries.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Ninety patients with pSS from six European centres were studied. Serum samples from all patients were tested in a control laboratory for anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB autoantibodies by RNA precipitation assay and autoantibodies to the previously reported B cell linear epitopes of Ro 60 kDa (p169-190aa and p211-232aa) and La/SSB (p147-154aa, p291-302aa, p301-318aa, and p349-364aa). DNA from 88 patients was used for the determination of HLA-DRB1, -DQA1, and -DQB1 genotypes. Analysis of the results was performed in the 88 patients who were genotyped and tested also for antipeptide antibodies.

RESULTS: Antibodies to B cell epitopes of Ro 60 kDa were detected at a low frequency (range 10-37%). In contrast, B cell epitopes of La/SSB were detected frequently (range 58-86%) among the anti-La/SSB positive sera. Autoantibodies to the La/SSB epitope, p349-364aa, were significantly positively associated with longer disease duration (p<0.05), recurrent or permanent parotid gland enlargement (p<0.005), and a higher proportion of non-exocrine manifestations (p<0.005), compared with patients without autoantibodies. The presence of anti-Ro/SSA and anti-La/SSB autoantibodies was significantly associated with the presence of HLA-DRB1*03 and DQB1*02 (p=0.038 and p=0.034, respectively). This association was even more prominent and extended to HLA-DQA1*0501 when patients were stratified according the presence of autoantibodies to discrete La/SSB B cell epitopes in comparison with autoantibody negative patients (p<0.01). They were found also to be highly associated with the alleles HLA-DQB1*02 and HLA-DQA1*0501 as well as the presence of a shared amino acid motif in the region 59-69aa of DQB1 first domain (p<0.01, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Autoantibodies against La/SSB, binding to four synthetic peptides, derived from the sequence of the La protein were identified with increased frequency in sera of patients with pSS. The formation of autoantibodies against B cell epitope analogues of La/SSB in European patients with pSS may be dependent on the presence of a permissive HLA-DQ heterodimer, most prominently represented by the HLA-DQA1*0501/DQB1*0201 heterodimer, suggesting that a model of HLA restricted presentation of La/SSB peptide determinants is crucial for the autoimmune response against La/SSB.


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