More than 300 sera from patients with a connective tissue disease were analyzed with the immunoblotting technique. The presence of autoantibodies against an 86,000-mol wt marker antigen for diffuse scleroderma (Scl-86) was found in 14 out of 33 patients with scleroderma. The presence of anti-Scl-86 antibodies seemed to correlate with the diagnosis of diffuse scleroderma since they were found in 13 out of 22 diffuse scleroderma patients and in only one out of 11 patients with limited scleroderma. All scleroderma sera (33 patients' sera and 13 reference sera) were also tested for the presence of anti-Scl-70 antibodies. It was found that all anti-Scl-70 positive sera (n = 25) contained anti-Scl-86 antibody as well, suggesting a relationship between these two antigens. However, the Scl-86 antigen was shown to be an extremely insoluble nonchromosomal protein, resistant to boiling in sodium dodecyl sulfate. This contrasts with the Scl-70 antigen, which has been described as a thermolabile, soluble antigen present in the chromatin fraction. Together, our results are consistent with the idea that Scl-70 is a degradation product of Scl-86. The Scl-86 antigen is present in freshly prepared rabbit thymus, spleen, and liver nuclei as well as in nuclei from various cultured cell lines, but is not detectable in extractable nuclear antigen from rabbit thymus. In a limited retrospective study, the anti-Scl-86 antibodies were found in two sera from patients with Raynaud's phenomenon before the development of diffuse scleroderma. Therefore, it is possible that screening of patients' serum for this antibody might predict the development of diffuse scleroderma.
W J van Venrooij, S O Stapel, H Houben, W J Habets, C G Kallenberg, E Penner, L B van de Putte