Antibodies to viral citrullinated peptide in rheumatoid arthritis.
Anzilotti C., Merlini G., Pratesi F., Tommasi C., Chimenti D., Migliorini P.
OBJECTIVE: To analyze the frequency of anti-viral citrullinated peptide (anti-VCP) antibodies in sera from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-derived peptide in which arginine is replaced with citrulline. METHODS: Anti-VCP antibodies were determined in 627 serum samples, 300 from patients with RA and 327 from controls, including connective tissue diseases, chronic arthritides, and healthy donors. Among patients with RA, a possible correlation with systemic involvement, disease severity, and disease activity was investigated; in 94 RA patients antibodies to cyclic citrullinated protein (anti-CCP) were also measured. RESULTS: Anti-VCP antibodies were found in 45% of RA sera versus less than 5% of controls; anti-VCP levels correlated with anti-CCP levels (p < 0.0001), rheumatoid factor (p = 0.02), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (p = 0.0058). No correlation was found with extraarticular manifestations of the disease or with disease severity. CONCLUSION: Anti-VCP antibodies are helpful in discriminating RA from other chronic arthritides or connective tissue disorders. The level of positivity is positively correlated with the anti-CCP level, suggesting that VCP can be considered a novel substrate to detect anti-citrullinated peptide/protein antibodies (ACPA). The reactivity of RA-specific antibodies with a viral citrullinated antigen raises questions on the role of EBV in the induction of ACPA.