M4 and M9 antibodies in the overlap syndrome of primary biliary cirrhosis and chronic active hepatitis: Epitopes or epiphenomena?

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Abstract

Before the identification of the major mitochondrial antigens of primary biliary cirrhosis as components of the 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase enzyme family, mitochondrial autoantigens were believed to be extremely heterogeneous and were divided into nine subtypes termed M1 to M9. This classification was based on the data derived from the relatively nonspecific biochemical and immunological techniques that were available. After the cloning and definition of the major autoantigens, more than 95% of the sera of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis were found to react with components of the 2-oxo-dehydrogenase enzymes; these enzymes correspond to the old M2 classification. Two other “M” species, dubbed M4 and M9, have attracted significant attention because they have been postulated to be prognostic indicators and more recently have been tentatively identified respectively as sulfite oxidase (EC 1.8.3.1) and glycogen phosphorylase (EC 2.4.1.1). Indeed, patients with the “overlap syndrome” are reported to have antibodies to M4 and a poor prognosis, whereas patients with antibodies to M9 have a favorable prognosis. To address the significance and definition of M4 and M9, we performed in-depth studies of sera from 11 patients with the overlap syndrome, 75 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, 19 chronic active hepatitis patients, 13 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis, 10 patients with cholangiocarcinoma, 20 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, 20 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, 17 patients with scleroderma and 30 normal individuals, using techniques of ELISA, complement fixation, immunoblotting and enzyme inhibition. We report herein that we were unable to show any disease-specific reactivity toward the proposed M4 and M9 antigens. We offer potential explanations for false-positive readings and, most importantly, propose that the “M” nomenclature be discontinued and that autoantigens be designated by their proven and reproducible biochemical identity. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:1128–1136.)

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