We have cloned and sequenced a 46-kD Ro/SS-A autoantigen gene that is the human homologue of the calcium-binding protein, calreticulin. The sequence of this 46-kD Ro/SS-A protein (calreticulin) has significant homology to lambda Ral-1, a recombinant cDNA clone corresponding to a major antigen of the nematode, Onchocerca volvulus, the infectious agent of onchocerciasis. We therefore sought to determine whether antibodies produced by onchocerciasis patients might crossreact with the human 46-kD Ro/SS-A autoantigen (calreticulin). 20 of 22 sera from Liberian onchocerciasis patients who had no known evidence of autoimmune disease were found to contain antibodies that reacted with the 46-kD Ro/SS-A (calreticulin) by immunoblot analysis. Characteristic of sera reactive with Ro/SS-A antigens, some onchocerciasis sera also immunoprecipitated the Ro/SS-A-associated hY RNAs. In addition, a monoclonal antibody raised against O. volvulus organisms reacted to purified human WiL-2 cell 46 kD Ro/SS-A antigen (calreticulin) by ELISA. These results strongly suggest that onchocerciasis patients produce antibodies that crossreact with the 46-kD human Ro/SS-A autoantigen (calreticulin) and raise the possibility that infectious organisms such as O. volvulus might play a triggering or exacerbating role in the human Ro/SS-A autoimmune response.
F A Lux, D P McCauliffe, D W Büttner, R Lucius, J D Capra, R D Sontheimer, T S Lieu