Researchers of the Centre for Medical Systems Biology have discovered a new antibody that makes it easier to predict the course of rheumatism. Patients whose blood contains the antibody anti-CarP turn out to have a poorer prognosis. Detection of Anti-CarP in patients with serious symptoms, who lack the so far only known poor outcome marker ACPA, is an additional identifier of patients at risk for a severe disease course.
Autoimmune responses against antigens are a hallmark of several autoimmune diseases. For example, antibodies against citrullinated protein antigens (ACPA) have shown their relevance for the prognosis and diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and have been implicated in disease pathogenesis. It is conceivable that other autoantibody systems, recognising other proteins, are also present in RA.
This study describes the presence of an autoantibody system that discriminates between citrulline- and homocitrulline-containing antigens in the sera of RA-patients. IgG antibodies recognising carbamylated (homocitrulline-containing) antigens were present in sera of over 45% of RA-patients. Likewise, anticarbamylated protein (anti-CarP) IgA antibodies were observed in 43% of RA-sera. ACPA and anti-CarP antibodies are distinct autoantibodies because, in selected double-positive patients, the anti-CarP antibody binding to carbamylated antigens could be inhibited by carbamylated antigens, but not by control or citrullinated antigens. Similarly, ACPA-binding to citrullinated antigens could only be inhibited by citrullinated antigens.
In line with this observation, 16% of ACPA-negative RA-patients, as measured by a standard ACPA assay, harbored IgG anti-CarP antibodies, whereas 30% of these patients tested positive for IgA anti-CarP antibodies. The presence of anti-CarP antibodies was predictive for a more severe disease course in ACPA-negative patients as measured by radiological progression. Taken together, these data show the presence of a unique autoantibody system recognising carbamylated, but not citrullinated, protein antigens. These antibodies are predictive for a more severe clinical course in ACPA-negative RA-patients, indicating that anti-CarP antibodies are a unique and relevant serological marker for ACPA-negative RA.