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Objective

Autoantibodies against melanoma differentiation–associated protein 5 (MDA-5) have been described in several Asian dermatomyositis (DM) cohorts, often associated with amyopathic DM and rapidly progressive interstitial lung disease (ILD). A recent study of a DM cohort seen at a US dermatology clinic reports that MDA-5 autoantibodies are associated with a unique cutaneous phenotype. Given the widening spectrum of clinical findings, we evaluated the clinical features of anti–MDA-5–positive patients seen at a US myositis referral center.

Methods

One hundred sixty DM patients were screened for MDA-5 autoantibodies by immunoprecipitation and antibody titers were analyzed in longitudinal serum samples. Anti–MDA-5–positive patients were evaluated for the presence of additional myositis autoantibodies. Patient clinical characteristics were compared by retrospective chart review.

Results

MDA-5 was targeted in 11 (6.9%) of 160 patients with DM. Of these, 9 presented with a symmetric polyarthropathy, 6 demonstrated overt clinical myopathy, and 8 had ILD. Eight anti–MDA-5–positive patients exhibited the clinical attributes of the antisynthetase syndrome in the absence of Jo-1 or other antisynthetase autoantibodies. MDA-5 autoantibody titers did not correlate with clinical course.

Conclusion

MDA-5 autoantibodies are found in DM patients presenting with a symmetric polyarthritis, clinically similar to rheumatoid arthritis. These patients often have features of the antisynthetase syndrome, but in the absence of antisynthetase autoantibodies. Most anti–MDA-5–positive patients had overt clinical myopathy and ILD. The latter, while occasionally severe, typically resolved with immunosuppressive therapy. In this cohort, the MDA-5 phenotype is frequently a clinical mimic of the antisynthetase syndrome and is not associated with rapidly progressive ILD.