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Background: Improved knowledge of different biomarkers is crucial for early diagnosis of rheumatic diseases and to provide important insights for clinical management. In this study, we evaluated the seroreactivity of patients with different connective tissue diseases (CTDs) (rheumatoid arthritis, RA; systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE; systemic sclerosis, SSc; and Sjogren's syndrome, SSj) to interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) peptide and homologs derived from Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). Antigen-induced arthritis (AIA) experiments have been performed in control and IRF5 conditional knockout mice to reinforce the hypothesis that antibodies generated against the three homologous peptides are cross-reactive. Methods: Reactivity against wild-type (wt) and citrullinated (cit) IRF5 (IRF5424-434), MAP (MAP_402718-32) and EBV (BOLF1305-320) peptides were tested by indirect ELISA in sera from 100 RA patients, 54 patients with other CTDs (14 SLE, 28 SSc and 12 SSj) and 100 healthy subjects (HCs). Antibody responses to the same wt peptides have been tested in AIA mouse sera after immunization with complete Freud's adjuvant (CFA) and methylated bovine serum albumin (mBSA) to induce arthritis in the knee joint. Results: BOLF1, MAP_4027 and IRF5 peptides triggered different antibody responses in CTD diseases with a stronger reactivity in RA (p=0.0001). Similar trends were observed in AIA mice with significantly higher reactivity after 7 days from induction of arthritis. We also found statistically significant differences in antibody responses between SSc and HCs for BOLF1 (p=0.003), MAP_4027 (p=0.0076) and IRF5 (p=0.0042). Peripheral reactivity to cit peptides was lower compared to their wt counterparts, except for cit-MAP_402718-32, which induced stronger responses in RA than wt-MAP_402718-32 (46% vs. 26%, p=0.0170). Conclusion(s): Our results show differential antibody responses to BOLF1, MAP_4027 and IRF5 peptides among CTDs, highlighting their potential as diagnostic biomarkers in these diseases. Experiments performed in IRF5 conditional knockout mice support the hypothesis of cross-reactivity between the investigated homologous antigens.

Original publication




Journal article


J transl autoimmun

Publication Date





Citrullination, EBV, IRF5, MAP, Mouse models of rheumatoid arthritis, Rheumatic diseases