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Abstract

Serum antibodies reactive with the keratin layer of rat esophagus (AKA) were found in 46 of 80 (57.5%) rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. In contrast, AKA were present in only 7 of 82 (9.5%) patients with other types of rheumatic disorders and in 2 of 47 (4.2%) healthy subjects. AKA were not specific for RA, however, because in the former group, AKA were present in 4 of 20 (20%) systemic sclerosis patients and in 3 of 12 (25%) ankylosing spondylitis patients. AKA belong predominantly to the IgG class and are complement fixing. Although found in some RA joint fluids, AKA were not selectively concentrated in the joint fluid. Absorption of RA serum with type I human collagen or with human epidermal keratin did not remove AKA activity. The frequency of AKA in RA patients both negative and positive for DR4 was equal. There was no relationship between the frequency of AKA and the occurrence of other serum autoantibodies such as antibodies to intermediate filaments, smooth muscle, and nuclear antigens. Serum antibody reactive with human stratum corneum found in patients with psoriatic arthritis was shown to be different from AKA. Rabbit antiserum to human keratin did not inhibit the reaction of AKA against the keratin layer of rat esophagus. Autoimmunity to structural proteins including collagen, vimentin intermediate filaments, smooth muscle antigens, and keratin is a characteristic feature of RA.