Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease of complex clinical presentation and etiology and is likely influenced by numerous genetic and environmental factors. While a large number of susceptibility genes have been identified, the production of antibodies against a distinct subset of nuclear proteins remains a primary distinguishing characteristic in disease diagnosis. However, the utility of autoantibody biomarkers for disease sub-classification and grouping remains elusive, in part, because of the difficulty in large scale profiling using a uniform, quantitative platform. In the present study serological profiles of several known SLE antigens, including Sm-D3, RNP-A, RNP-70k, Ro52, Ro60, and La, as well as other cytokine and neuronal antigens were obtained using the luciferase immunoprecipitation systems (LIPS) approach. The resulting autoantibody profiles revealed that 88% of a pilot cohort and 98% of a second independent cohort segregated into one of two distinct clusters defined by autoantibodies against Sm/anti-RNP or Ro/La autoantigens, proteins often involved in RNA binding activities. The Sm/RNP cluster was associated with a higher prevalence of serositis in comparison to the Ro/La cluster (P = 0.0022). However, from the available clinical information, no other clinical characteristics were associated with either cluster. In contrast, evaluation of autoantibodies on an individual basis revealed an association between anti-Sm (P = 0.006), RNP-A (P = 0.018) and RNP-70k (P = 0.010) autoantibodies and mucocutaneous symptoms and between anti-RNP-70k and musculoskeletal manifestations (P = 0.059). Serologically active, but clinically quiescent disease also had a higher prevalence of anti-IFN-α autoantibodies. Based on our findings that most SLE patients belong to either a Sm/RNP or Ro/La autoantigen cluster, these results suggest the possibility that alterations in RNA-RNA-binding protein interactions may play a critical role in triggering and/or the pathogenesis of SLE.
Ching, K. H., Burbelo, P. D., Tipton, C., Wei, C., Petri, M., Sanz, I., & Iadarola, M. J. (2012). Two major autoantibody clusters in systemic lupus erythematosus. PLoS ONE, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032001