A hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the production of autoantibodies, including anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). Nevertheless, the specific targets of these autoantibodies remain incompletely defined. During an immune response, B cells specific for the inciting antigen(s) are activated and differentiate into plasmablasts, which are released into the blood. We undertook this study to sequence the plasmablast antibody repertoire to define the targets of the active immune response in RA.We developed a novel DNA barcoding method to sequence the cognate heavy- and light-chain pairs of antibodies expressed by individual blood plasmablasts in RA. The method uses a universal 5' adapter that enables full-length sequencing of the antibodies' variable regions and recombinant expression of the paired antibody chains. The sequence data sets were bioinformatically analyzed to generate phylogenetic trees that identify clonal families of antibodies sharing heavy- and light-chain VJ sequences. Representative antibodies were expressed, and their binding properties were characterized using anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide 2 (anti-CCP-2) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and antigen microarrays.We used our sequencing method to generate phylogenetic trees representing the antibody repertoires of peripheral blood plasmablasts from 4 individuals with anti-CCP+ RA, and recombinantly expressed 14 antibodies that were either "singleton" antibodies or representative of clonal antibody families. Anti-CCP-2 ELISA identified 4 ACPAs, and antigen microarray analysis identified ACPAs that differentially targeted epitopes on a-enolase, citrullinated fibrinogen, and citrullinated histone H2B.Our data provide evidence that autoantibodies targeting a-enolase, citrullinated fibrinogen, and citrullinated histone H2B are produced by the ongoing activated B cell response in, and thus may contribute to the pathogenesis of, RA.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.38754
View details for PubMedID 24965753