Liver/kidney microsomal antibody type 1 (LKM-1), the serological marker of a subset of autoimmune hepatitis, is also present in a proportion of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) related chronic liver disease. To characterise further this autoreactivity and to evaluate whether an autoantibody giving an identical immunofluorescence staining, and detected in two different clinical conditions, involves the same antigenic target(s), sera from autoimmune and HCV infected patients were tested with native, recombinant, and synthetic antigens. Sixty five sera were selected on the basis of the typical immunofluorescence pattern: 50 patients had serological markers of HCV infection, the remaining 15 suffered from autoimmune hepatitis. The reactivity of each serum with rat and human microsomal fractions, full length human recombinant CYP2D6, and two synthetic peptides spanning the amino acid regions 257-269 and 373-398 of CYP2D6 was systematically investigated by immunoblotting. Fourteen (93%) sera from autoimmune hepatitis patients and 39 (78%) from HCV infected patients reacted with rat and/or human microsomal polypeptides of 39 kD, 50 kD, 58 kD, and 66 kD in different associations, the 50 kD band being the most frequently observed. Reactivity to CYP2D6 and its amino acid sequence 257-269 was significantly more common in autoimmune hepatitis than in HCV infected patients (p < 0.001 and p < 0.0003, respectively). LKM-1 reactivity is directed against heterogeneous and not entirely defined autoantigens. The main target in autoimmune sera is CYP2D6 and its 257-269 amino acid region, while sera from patients with HCV infection are more likely to recognise other microsomal targets, the molecular identity of which is currently unknown.
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