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Liberation of elastin peptides from damaged lung may be a mechanism of autoimmune lung disease. Citrullination, and anti-citrullinated protein antibody formation occurs in smokers, but the role of smoking in autoantibody generation relevant to pulmonary disease is unclear. Anti-elastin, anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) and anti-mutated citrullinated vimentin (anti-MCV) antibodies were measured in 257 subjects with α₁-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), 113 subjects with usual chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 22 healthy nonsmokers. Levels were compared between groups, against phenotypic features and against smoke exposure. Anti-elastin antibodies were higher in controls relative to AATD (p = 0.008) and usual COPD (p < 0.00001), and in AATD relative to usual COPD (p < 0.00001). Anti-elastin levels showed a threshold at 10 pack-yrs, being higher in those who had smoked less (p = 0.004). No relationships between antibody levels and clinical phenotype were seen after adjustment for smoke exposure. Anti-CCP antibodies were higher in usual COPD than AATD (p = 0.002) but the relationship to smoke exposure was less clear. Smoke exposure is the main determinant of anti-elastin antibody levels, which fall after 10 pack-yrs. Local antibody complexes may be a better measure of elastin directed autoimmunity than circulating levels.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur respir j

Publication Date





32 - 38


Adult, Aged, Autoimmune Diseases, Elastin, Female, Forced Expiratory Volume, Humans, Lung Diseases, Male, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Risk, Smoking, Time Factors, alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency