Open Access Open Badges Research article

Identification of novel citrullinated autoantigens of synovium in rheumatoid arthritis using a proteomic approach

Kosuke Matsuo12, Yang Xiang1, Hiroshi Nakamura1, Kayo Masuko1, Kazuo Yudoh1, Koji Noyori2, Kusuki Nishioka3, Tomoyuki Saito2 and Tomohiro Kato1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioregulation & Proteomics, Institute of Medical Science, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, Sugao 2-16-1, Miyamae, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 216-8512, Japan

2 Musculoskeletal Science, Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine, Fukuura3-9, Kanazawa, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0004, Japan

3 Department of Frontier Medicine, Institute of Medical Science, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, Sugao 2-16-1, Miyamae, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 216-8512, Japan

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, 8:R175  doi:10.1186/ar2085

Published: 27 November 2006


Recently, autoantibodies to some citrullinated autoantigens have been reported to be specific for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, an entire profile of and autoimmunity of the citrullinated proteins have been poorly understood. To understand the profile, we examined citrullinated autoantigens by a proteomic approach and further investigated the significance of citrullination in antigenicity of one of the autoantigens. Specifically, we detected citrullinated autoantigens in synovial tissue of a patient with RA by two-dimensional electrophoresis and Western blotting by using pooled sera from five patients with RA and anti-citrulline antibodies. After identifying the detected autoantigens by mass spectrometry, we investigated the contribution of citrullination to autoantigenicity by using a recombinant protein with or without citrullination on one of the identified novel citrullinated autoantigens. As a result, we found 51 citrullinated protein spots. Thirty (58.8%) of these spots were autoantigenic. We identified 13 out of the 30 detected citrullinated autoantigenic proteins. They contained three fibrinogen derivatives and several novel citrullinated autoantigens (for example, asporin and F-actin capping protein α-1 subunit [CapZα-1]). We further analyzed the contribution of citrullination to autoantigenicity in one of the detected citrullinated autoantigens, CapZα-1. As a result, frequencies of autoantibodies to non-citrullinated CapZα-1 were 36.7% in the RA group tested, 10.7% in the osteoarthritis (OA) group, and 6.5% in healthy donors. On the other hand, those to citrullinated CapZα-1 were 53.3% in the RA group, 7.1% in the OA group, and 6.5% in the healthy donors. This shows that autoantigenicity of citrullinated or non-citrullinated CapZα-1 is relevant to RA. The antibody titers to the citrullinated CapZα-1 were significantly higher than those to the non-citrullinated CapZα-1 in 36.7% of patients; however, the other patients showed almost equal antibody titers to both citrullinated and non-citrullinated CapZα-1. Therefore, the autoantibodies would target citrulline-related and/or citrulline-unrelated epitope(s) of CapZα-1. In conclusion, we report a profile of citrullinated autoantigens for the first time. Even though citrullination is closely related to autoantigenicity, citrullination would not always produce autoantigenicity in RA. Citrullinated and non-citrullinated autoantigens/autoepitopes would have different pathological roles in RA.