OBJECTIVES--To determine the prevalence and clinical associations of autoantibodies to myeloperoxidase (MPO) in an unselected series of well-characterised outpatients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to compare the distribution of IgG subclasses of anti-MPO antibodies in these patients with that in patients with systemic vasculitis. PATIENTS AND METHODS--A study was made of 97 patients with RA, who have been seen regularly in this department for up to 20 years, and 29 patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) positive systemic vasculitis. Anti-MPO antibodies were detected using a direct-binding enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with MPO from human granulocytes as antigen. The IgG subclass of anti-MPO antibodies was determined by ELISA using isotype specific monoclonal antibodies. RESULTS--Anti-MPO antibodies were detected in 12% of patients with RA. Six sera contained IgG anti-MPO antibodies only, 1 IgM only and 5 antibodies of both classes. In the patients with RA the predominant subclasses were IgG1 and IgG3: only 2 sera contained detectable IgG4 antibodies. This was in contrast to patients with vasculitis, in whom most sera contained IgG1, IgG3 and IgG4 anti-MPO antibodies. Anti-MPO antibodies in sera from both patient groups bound only to the native protein. None of the patients studied with RA had evidence of vasculitis affecting the nerves or kidney: three patients (1 positive for anti-MPO antibodies and 2 negative) had cutaneous vasculitis. In the patients with RA, positivity for anti-MPO antibodies was associated with nodules and number of active joints. Three patients with anti-MPO antibodies, and none without, had pulmonary fibrosis. CONCLUSIONS--Twelve per cent of a group of unselected outpatients with RA, but without evidence of major systemic vasculitis, had anti-MPO antibodies in their serum. Positivity for anti-MPO antibodies was more common in patients with nodular disease and lung involvement but not in patients with cutaneous vasculitis. IgG4 sub-class anti-MPO antibodies were present in 90% of sera from patients with ANCA-positive vasculitis and only 2/11 (18%) of anti-MPO antibody containing sera from patients with RA.
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