P62 is a synthetic peptide which corresponds to the glycine/alanine repeat sequence of Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen-1. It is the main epitope recognised by anti-rheumatoid arthritis nuclear antigen antibodies. It was shown previously that anti-P62 antibodies were raised fourfold in patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared with controls. To examine the possibility that this increase was due to cross reactive autoantibodies binding to P62, anti-P62 antibodies from serum samples taken from 10 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and five healthy controls were purified by affinity chromatography. Immunoglobulin G anti-P62 antibodies purified from four of 10 serum samples from patients with rheumatoid arthritis also reacted with human epidermal keratin, denatured collagen type II and actin, but not with influenza antigens, as determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Anti-P62 antibodies in serum samples from healthy controls and patients with rheumatoid arthritis reacted with epidermal keratin by immunoblotting. It is suggested that antibodies to the glycine/alanine repeat sequence of Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen-1 recognise homologous epitopes on keratin, actin, and collagen. It is also possible that molecular mimicry between a major epitope on the Epstein-Barr virus and several autoantigens might contribute to the breakdown of tolerance and autoimmunity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
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