Seventy seven sera with antimitochondrial antibody exhibiting the M2-M4 pattern in immunofluorescence (56 from primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), 21 from non-primary biliary cirrhosis patients) were studied by the combined use of Western immunoblotting with beef heart mitochondria and an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with beef heart submitochondrial particles. Forty seven sera (10 without autoantibodies and 37 with different auto-antibodies) were included as controls. By immunoblotting, seven mitochondrial peptides reacting with antimitochondrial antibody positive sera were detected. These were of molecular weight 74 kD, 58 kD, 55 kD, 52 kD, 51 kD, 46 kD, and 43 kD. All primary biliary cirrhosis sera and 71% of antimitochondrial antibody-positive non-primary biliary cirrhosis sera reacted with one or more of these peptides, while none of the 47 antimitochondrial antibody negative sera reacted in immunoblotting. The 74 kD band was the most frequently detected (84% of primary biliary cirrhosis and 57% of non-primary biliary cirrhosis cases). All the primary biliary cirrhosis sera which failed to react with this peptide, showed a positive reaction with that of molecular weight 52 kD. 67/77 (87%) immunofluorescence antimitochondrial antibody positive sera reacted in the ELISA test (93% of primary biliary cirrhosis and 71% of non-primary biliary cirrhosis cases). All the 47 immunofluorescence antimitochondrial antibody negative sera were confirmed negative by ELISA. The ELISA values correlated with the immunofluorescence titres (p less than 0.05). By comparison of the results obtained by these two techniques, it emerged that the ELISA test (using our preparation of submitochondrial particles) was not able to detect the antibody directed against the mitochondrial peptide of 52 kD, which thus seems to be different from the other specificities.
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