Identity of the M2 autoantigens in primary biliary cirrhosis



Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC)-specific antigens were purified from beef heart mitochondria by immunoaffinity chromatography. Three major polypeptides (75, 60, and 40 kDa) were detected in the purified antigen fraction both by Coomassie blue staining and by western blot analysis. The 75 kDa antigen was identified as a subunit of Complex I (NADH-ubiquinone reductase) by the following criteria: (1) antibodies against the purified 75 kDa subunit of beef heart Complex I react with the immunoaffinity-purified 75 kDa antigen, (2) the 75 kDa subunit present in isolated Complex I, like that in the immunoaffinity-purified antigen, reacts with PBC sera only after reduction with mercaptoethanol, and (3) the 75 kDa antigen is enriched in isolated Complex I. A relationship between the 75 kDa and the 60 and 40 kDa antigens is suggested, since optimal binding of anti-mitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA) to the latter antigens also requires prior reduction with mercaptoethanol. A fourth major antigen (70 kDa) was also detected by western blot analysis, but only in samples that had not been boiled prior to electrophoresis. This antigen, which is also present in isolated Complex I, resembles the 75, 60, and 40 kDa antigens in its response to mercaptoethanol and its reaction with antibodies against the 75 kDa subunit of Complex I. A scheme is presented which relates all of the PBC antigens to the parent 75 kDa subunit of Complex I, probably as proteolytic products of the latter.