Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are frequently associated with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and hepatobiliary disorders. However, their target antigens have not been identified yet. Recently, we observed an atypical perinuclear ANCA fluorescence (p-ANCA) together with an intranuclear staining using ANCA-positive sera from patients with IBD and hepatobiliary disorders. This observation suggests that the target antigens are localized within the nucleus of neutrophilic granulocytes. To further investigate this hypothesis, we examined sera from patients with ulcerative colitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, autoimmune hepatitis or systemic vasculitis on ethanol or formaldehyde-fixed neutrophils using confocal laser scanning microscopy and immunoelectron microscopy. Counterstaining with propidium iodide, a DNA-specific dye, showed that ANCA-positive sera in IBD and heptobiliary disorders react with intranuclear antigens at the nuclear periphery of the neutrophils. Double immunolabeling techniques revealed that nuclear lamina proteins, lamins A, C and B1, and lamin B receptor were colocalized with the antigen(s) recognized by atypical p-ANCA. No colocalization was observed with classical p-ANCA and antibodies against histones (H1-H4). Our study showed that atypical p-ANCA are antinuclear antibodies reactive with granulocyte-specific antigens present in the nuclear lamina.
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