Backround and aims: The aetiopathogenesis of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is not yet fully understood. Autoimmune mechanisms are thought to play a role in the development of Crohn’s disease, but the target antigens and the underlying pathways have not been sufficiently identified.
Methods: Based on data from immunoblotting and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionisation time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, the major antigenic target of pancreatic autoantibodies (PABs), which are specific for Crohn’s disease, was identified. Specificity of autoantibody reactivity was confirmed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) using purified rat and human recombinant GP2 synthesised in transiently transfected mammalian HEK 293 cells. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) and IIF were used to detect mRNA and antigen localisation in human colon biopsies.
Results: The major zymogen granule membrane glycoprotein 2 (GP2) was identified as the autoantigen of PABs in Crohn’s disease. PAB-positive sera from patients with Crohn’s disease (n = 42) displayed significantly higher IgG reactivity to rat GP2 in ELISA than either PAB-negative sera (n = 31), or sera from patients with ulcerative colitis (n = 49), or sera from blood donors (n = 69) (p<0.0001, respectively). Twenty-eight (66%) and 18 (43%) of 42 PAB-positive sera demonstrated IgG and IgA reactivity to human recombinant GP2 in IIF, respectively. Patients with PAB-negative Crohn’s disease (n = 31) were not reactive. GP2 mRNA transcription was significantly higher in colon biopsies from patients with Crohn’s disease (n = 4) compared to patients with ulcerative colitis (n = 4) (p = 0.0286). Immunochemical staining confirmed GP2 expression in human colon biopsies from patients with Crohn’s disease.
Conclusion: Anti-GP2 autoantibodies constitute novel Crohn’s disease-specific markers, the quantification of which could significantly improve the serological diagnosis of IBD. The expression of GP2 in human enterocytes suggests an important role for anti-GP2 response in the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease.
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