RA is the most frequent and most destructive inflammatory arthropathy. Rheumatoid factors, in spite of their lack of disease specificity, are important serological markers for RA and appear important in its immunopathogenesis as well. In search of more disease-specific autoimmune systems, we have screened a human placenta lambda gt11 cDNA expression library using selected sera from patients with classical erosive RA. We have identified one clone (RA-1) that is recognized by three of five screening sera. The 950-bp insert shows a complete nucleotide sequence homology to the cDNA encoding the two COOH-terminal domains of calpastatin. The deduced open reading frame of the RA-1 cDNA predicts a 284-amino acid protein, with a calculated mol wt of 35.9 kD. Calpastatin is the natural inhibitor of calpains, which are members of the cysteine proteinases recently implicated in joint destruction in rheumatic diseases. The two domains encoded by the RA-1 clone each contain the structural features associated with the inhibitory activity of human calpastatin. By Western blotting, 45.5% or 21/44 RA sera specifically recognized both the fusion and the cleaved recombinant protein. This is in contrast to 4.7% (2/43) in nonrheumatoid sera and 0/10 in normal sera. Anticalpastatin autoantibodies could represent a disease-associated marker in chronic erosive arthritis of the rheumatoid type and could hypothetically play a dual pathogenic role, directly via an immune interference and indirectly through an immune complex mechanism.
N Després, G Talbot, B Plouffe, G Boire, H A Ménard