Open Access Open Badges Research article

Identification of new autoantibody specificities directed at proteins involved in the transforming growth factor β pathway in patients with systemic sclerosis

Guillaume Bussone12, Hanadi Dib12, Mathieu C Tamby12, Cedric Broussard3, Christian Federici3, Geneviève Woimant4, Luc Camoin3, Loïc Guillevin5 and Luc Mouthon125*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut Cochin, Université Paris Descartes, CNRS UMR 8104, 8 rue Méchain, F-75014 Paris, France

2 INSERM U1016, 8 rue Méchain, F-75014 Paris, France

3 Institut Cochin, Plate-forme Protéomique de l'Université Paris Descartes, CNRS UMR 8104, 22 rue Méchain, F-75014 Paris, France

4 Etablissement Français du Sang, hôpital Saint-Vincent de Paul, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, 82 avenue Denfert-Rochereau, F-75674 Paris Cedex 14, France

5 Université Paris Descartes, Faculté de Médecine, pôle de Médecine Interne et Centre de référence pour les vascularites nécrosantes et la sclérodermie systémique, hôpital Cochin, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, 27 rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, F-75679 Paris Cedex 14, France

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R74  doi:10.1186/ar3336

Published: 13 May 2011



Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs), usually detected by indirect immunofluorescence on HEp-2 cells, are identified in 90% of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). Thus, approximately 10% of SSc patients have no routinely detectable autoantibodies, and for 20% to 40% of those with detectable ANAs, the ANAs do not have identified specificity (unidentified ANAs). In this work, we aimed to identify new target autoantigens in SSc patients.


Using a proteomic approach combining two-dimensional electrophoresis and immunoblotting with HEp-2 cell total and enriched nuclear protein extracts as sources of autoantigens, we systematically analysed autoantibodies in SSc patients. Sera from 45 SSc patients were tested in 15 pools from groups of three patients with the same phenotype. A sera pool from 12 healthy individuals was used as a control. Proteins of interest were identified by mass spectrometry and analysed using Pathway Studio software.


We identified 974 and 832 protein spots in HEp-2 cell total and enriched nuclear protein extracts, respectively. Interestingly, α-enolase was recognised by immunoglobulin G (IgG) from all pools of patients in both extracts. Fourteen and four proteins were recognised by IgG from at least 75% of the 15 pools in total and enriched nuclear protein extracts, respectively, whereas 15 protein spots were specifically recognised by IgG from at least four of the ten pools from patients with unidentified ANAs. The IgG intensity for a number of antigens was higher in sera from patients than in sera from healthy controls. These antigens included triosephosphate isomerase, superoxide dismutase mitochondrial precursor, heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein L and lamin A/C. In addition, peroxiredoxin 2, cofilin 1 and calreticulin were specifically recognised by sera from phenotypic subsets of patients with unidentified ANAs. Interestingly, several identified target antigens were involved in the transforming growth factor β pathway.


We identified several new target antigens shared among patients with SSc or specific to a given phenotype. The specification of new autoantibodies could help in understanding the pathophysiology of SSc. Moreover, these autoantibodies could represent new diagnostic and/or prognostic markers for SSc.