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Keywords:

  • citrullination;
  • rheumatoid arthritis;
  • monoclonal antibody;
  • type II collagen;
  • cartilage

Summary:  The discovery of antibodies specific for citrullinated protein epitopes [anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs)] is a hallmark for the diagnosis and prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and will also be a useful tool for understanding the fundamental pathologic processes. There are several essential questions pertaining to ACPA that remain to be explored, such as understanding the early specificity of the underlying T-cell recognition, whether the production of ACPA is a primary or secondary process, and in the event of such antibodies being arthritogenic, whether they could possibly regulate the disease development. To answer these questions, animal models are needed, but unfortunately ACPA is not a prominent feature of any of the classical animal models of RA. However, we showed recently that ACPA can be isolated from animals susceptible to collagen-induced arthritis that are specific for citrullinated type II collagen (CII). The citrulline specificity could be visualized, and the specificity is determined primarily by a direct interaction with citrulline. We also demonstrated that these antibodies are specific for the citrullinated epitopes and are pathogenic in vivo. A new hypothesis to explain how inflammation in RA can be directed to cartilaginous joints and be self-perpetuating is suggested, which involves recognition of post-translational modifications (glycosylation and citrullination) on CII by T and B cells that can have both arthritogenic and regulatory consequences.