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Cellular immunity to cartilage aggrecan core protein in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and non-arthritic controls.
  1. N J Goodstone,
  2. M C Doran,
  3. R N Hobbs,
  4. R C Butler,
  5. J J Dixey,
  6. B A Ashton
  1. Department of Rheumatology, Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, Shropshire, United Kingdom.


    OBJECTIVE--To identify antigen(s) among purified deglycosylated aggrecan peptides spanning the chondroitin sulphate domain that may be responsible for the initiation or perpetuation of the autoimmune responses in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS--Aggrecan was purified from human articular cartilage and deglycosylated with either bacterial glycosidases or trifluoromethanesulphonic acid (TFMS). Twelve overlapping peptides (15 residues) spanning the chondroitin sulphate domain with N-terminal residues offset by three amino acids were synthesised. T cell responses to these antigens in RA patients and age matched controls were assessed in vitro by antigen specific T cell proliferation assays. RESULTS--Enzymically deglycosylated aggrecan (EDA) stimulated proliferation of T cells isolated from the peripheral blood in a greater proportion of patients with RA than controls. In a subset (12.5%) of RA patients, the magnitude of stimulation lay outside the control range. T cell proliferative responses to TFMS treated aggrecan were greater than, but well correlated with, responses to EDA. T cells from 15 patients were also stimulated with the pooled synthetic peptides. Four of seven patients who demonstrated T cell reactivity to EDA (seven of 15) also showed enhanced T cell proliferation to synthetic peptides. CONCLUSION--These data suggest that an autoantigenic T cell epitope may lie within the chondroitin sulphate domain of aggrecan.

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