Identification of several autoantibodies in serum samples from patients with ankylosing spondylitis or suspected ankylosing spondylitis is reported. Five antibodies associated with ankylosing spondylitis were identified by applying cytoimmunofluorescence and immunoblotting techniques to antigen pools from insect tissue. At least one of these antibodies was found in 82% of serum samples from patients with ankylosing spondylitis. A 36 kD drosophila antigen, which showed the most common and most dominant reaction, was further purified and isolated. Thirty two (34%) of the serum samples from 95 patients with definite ankylosing spondylitis and 12 (28%) of the serum samples from 43 patients with suspected ankylosing spondylitis reacted with this antigen. Antibodies purified from the 36 kD antigen reacted specifically with a 69 kD antigen present in separations of total protein preparations from human lymphocytes and HeLa cells. The 36 kD antibody was not found in 29 patients with rheumatoid arthritis nor in 38 apparently healthy controls. The prevalence of the 36 kD antibody was comparable in HLA-B27 positive and negative patients. In addition, the same immunoreaction was found in patients with so called 'seronegative' spondylarthropathies, particularly of the ankylosing spondylitis-type, suggesting that this antibody is specific for ankylosing spondylitis or other 'seronegative' spondylarthropathies with the typical clinical and radiological changes of ankylosing spondylitis.
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