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Keywords:

  • autoantibodies;
  • epitopes;
  • autoimmunity;
  • rheumatic diseases;
  • autoantigens

Autoimmune diseases are characterized by self-reactive immune processes mediated by B and T cells. These disorders exhibit a spectrum of clinical features that range from local or organ specific to systemic diseases. Although a variety of putative mechanisms that trigger the loss of tolerance and thus the genesis of autoimmunity have been identified, for the most part the precise mechanisms remain illusive. Nevertheless, it is widely appreciated that autoantibodies are useful both in the diagnosis of autoimmune disorders and as molecular biological tools to study cellular processes in which the target antigens are involved. Several methods and technologies, including protein fragments, synthetic peptides, phage display, or structural analyses have been developed for the characterization of the specificity of the autoimmune reactions. The present review provides an overview of the autoantibody epitopes in systemic autoimmune diseases as they relate to the clinical relevance and applications of certain autoepitopes and the technologies that are used to classify and identify them.