Autoantigens cross reactive with mycobacteria are implicated in the pathogenesis of adjuvant arthritis in the rat, and there are reports of changes in the immune response to mycobacteria in human rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We have therefore examined the IgM, IgG, and IgA antibody levels to crude mycobacterial antigens and to two recombinant mycobacterial heat shock/stress proteins (65 kD and 71 kD) in sera from patients with RA, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and Crohn's disease, and from healthy controls. IgA binding to the crude mycobacterial antigens was significantly raised in RA sera, though IgG and IgM binding tended to be lower than in controls. Both IgA and IgG binding to the heat shock proteins were significantly raised in the RA sera. Smaller significant rises in both classes were seen in sera from patients with SLE, and in the IgA class only to the 65 kD protein in Crohn's disease. The rises in IgG and IgA antibodies to the 65 kD protein in RA were significantly higher than in the other diseases, however. It is interesting that this protein is the one responsible for adjuvant arthritis in the rat.
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