Circulating anti-goblet cell antibody and its corresponding antigen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease were investigated. Anti-goblet cell antibody in the serum was examined by immunocytochemistry and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), using a colonic cancer cell line, HT29-18-N2, which differentiates into intestinal goblet cells. The frequencies of anti-goblet cell antibody detected by immunocytochemistry were 14 in 48 patients with ulcerative colitis (29%) and five in 15 patients with Crohn's disease (33%). By ELISA, the frequencies of anti-goblet cell antibody were 38% in ulcerative colitis and 33% in Crohn's disease. This antibody did not relate directly to anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA), although the serum samples positive for anti-goblet cell antibody were commonly positive for ANCA in ulcerative colitis. Immunoprecipitation and SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) study showed that the antibody in the ELISA positive serum samples recognised a > 200 kD goblet cell antigen, which remained unchanged after reduction, indicating that it consists of single chain polypeptides. These results suggest that there is a subgroup of inflammatory bowel disease that has circulating anti-goblet cell antibody reactive with a > 200 kD antigen. The antibody detected by newly established ELISA will be a disease marker for this group and the identification of the corresponding antigens may be important for the understanding of the underlying immune abnormalities.
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