Overlapping humoral autoimmunity links rheumatic fever and the antiphospholipid syndrome.
Blank M., Krause I., Magrini L., Spina G., Kalil J., Jacobsen S., Thiesen HJ., Cunningham MW., Guilherme L., Shoenfeld Y.
OBJECTIVE: Rheumatic fever (RF) and the antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) are autoimmune diseases that share similar cardiac and neurological pathologies. We assessed the presence of shared epitopes between M protein, N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosamine (GlcNAc) and beta2 glycoprotein-I (beta2GPI), the pathogenic molecules engaged in these autoimmune conditions. METHODS: Sera from the APS patients were affinity-purified on beta2GPI and beta2GPI-related peptide columns. Sera from RF patients were affinity-purified on protein G column. The beta2GPI and M protein-related peptides were prepared by conventional solid-phase peptide synthesis. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay direct binding and inhibition studies were performed on the RF and APS sera for the presence, and cross-reactivity, of antibodies against beta2GPI, beta2GPI-related peptides, streptococcal M protein, M-derived peptides and GlcNAc. RESULTS: Antibodies (Abs) to beta2GPI were found in 24.4% of 90 RF patients. Antibodies against various beta2GPI-related peptides were found in 1.1-36.7% of the patients. The immunoglobulin G sera from RF patients possessed significant anti-beta2GPI activity, while sera from APS patients contained a considerable anti-streptococcal M protein as well as anti-GlcNAc activity. Furthermore, affinity-purified anti-beta2GPI and anti-beta2GPI-related peptide Abs from APS patients cross-reacted with streptococcal M protein and M5 peptide, while beta2GPI and beta2GPI-related peptides inhibited anti-streptococcal M protein activity from RF patients. The results were confirmed by immunoblot analyses. The beta2GPI also inhibited anti-GlcNAc activity from APS patients with chorea. CONCLUSIONS: The results of our study, showing a considerable overlap of humoral immunity in RF and APS, support a hypothesis that common pathogenic mechanisms underlie the development of cardiac valve lesions and Central Nervous System abnormalities in both diseases.