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1.  Serum C-X-C motif chemokine 13 is elevated in early and established rheumatoid arthritis and correlates with rheumatoid factor levels 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(2):R103.
We hypothesized that serum levels of C-X-C motif chemokine 13 (CXCL13), a B-cell chemokine, would delineate a subset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients characterized by increased humoral immunity.
Serum from patients with established RA (the Dartmouth RA Cohort) was analyzed for CXCL13, rheumatoid factor (RF) levels, anticitrullinated peptide/protein antibody (ACPA) and total immunoglobulin G (IgG); other parameters were obtained by chart review. A confirmatory analysis was performed using samples from the Sherbrooke Early Undifferentiated PolyArthritis (EUPA) Cohort. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test, a t-test and Spearman’s correlation analysis were utilized to determine relationships between variables.
In both the Dartmouth and Sherbrooke cohorts, CXCL13 levels were selectively increased in seropositive relative to seronegative RA patients (P = 0.0002 and P < 0.0001 for the respective cohorts), with a strong correlation to both immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgA RF levels (P < 0.0001). There was a weaker relationship to ACPA titers (P = 0.03 and P = 0.006, respectively) and total IgG (P = 0.02 and P = 0.14, respectively). No relationship was seen with regard to age, sex, shared epitope status or inclusion high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in either cohort or regarding the presence of baseline erosions in the Sherbrooke Cohort, whereas a modest relationship with Disease Activity Score in 28 joints CRP (DAS28-CRP) was seen in the Dartmouth cohort but not the Sherbrooke cohort.
Using both established and early RA cohorts, marked elevations of serum CXCL13 levels resided nearly completely within the seropositive population. CXCL13 levels exhibited a strong relationship with RF, whereas the association with clinical parameters (age, sex, DAS28-CRP and erosions) or other serologic markers (ACPA and IgG) was either much weaker or absent. Elevated serum CXCL13 levels may identify a subset of seropositive RA patients whose disease is shaped by or responsive to RF production.
PMCID: PMC4060390  PMID: 24766912
2.  The 2010 American college of rheumatology fibromyalgia survey diagnostic criteria and symptom severity scale is a valid and reliable tool in a French speaking fibromyalgia cohort 
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a pain condition with associated symptoms contributing to distress. The Fibromyalgia Survey Diagnostic Criteria and Severity Scale (FSDC) is a patient-administered questionnaire assessing diagnosis and symptom severity. Locations of body pain measured by the Widespread Pain Index (WPI), and the Symptom Severity scale (SS) measuring fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, cognitive and somatic complaints provide a score (0–31), measuring a composite of polysymptomatic distress. The reliability and validity of the translated French version of the FSDC was evaluated.
The French FSDC was administered twice to 73 FM patients, and was correlated with measures of symptom status including: Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), and a visual analogue scale (VAS) for global severity and pain. Test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and construct validity were evaluated.
Test-retest reliability was between .600 and .888 for the 25 single items of the FSDC, and .912 for the total FSDC, with all correlations significant (p < 0.0001). There was good internal consistency measured by Cronbach’s alpha (.846 for FSDC assessment 1, and .867 for FSDC assessment 2). Construct validity showed significant correlations between the FSDC and FIQ 0.670, HAQ 0.413, MPQ 0.562, global VAS 0.591, and pain VAS 0.663 (all p<0.001).
The French FSDC is a valid instrument in French FM patients with reliability and construct validity. It is easily completed, simple to score, and has the potential to become the standard for measurement of polysymptomatic distress in FM.
PMCID: PMC3489797  PMID: 22994975
Fibromyalgia; Criteria; Severity scale; French
3.  The 2010 American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism Classification Criteria for Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(9):2582-2591.
The American College of Rheumatology and the European League Against Rheumatism have developed new classification criteria for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of Phase 2 of the development process was to achieve expert consensus on the clinical and laboratory variables that should contribute to the final criteria set.
Twenty-four expert RA clinicians (12 from Europe and 12 from North America) participated in Phase 2. A consensus-based decision analysis approach was used to identify factors (and their relative weights) that influence the probability of “developing RA,” complemented by data from the Phase 1 study. Patient case scenarios were used to identify and reach consensus on factors important in determining the probability of RA development. Decision analytic software was used to derive the relative weights for each of the factors and their categories, using choice-based conjoint analysis.
The expert panel agreed that the new classification criteria should be applied to individuals with undifferentiated inflammatory arthritis in whom at least 1 joint is deemed by an expert assessor to be swollen, indicating definite synovitis. In this clinical setting, they identified 4 additional criteria as being important: number of joints involved and site of involvement, serologic abnormality, acute-phase response, and duration of symptoms in the involved joints. These criteria were consistent with those identified in the Phase 1 data-driven approach.
The consensus-based, decision analysis approach used in Phase 2 complemented the Phase 1 efforts. The 4 criteria and their relative weights form the basis of the final criteria set.
PMCID: PMC3077961  PMID: 20872596
4.  Anti-Sa antibodies and antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptide are not equivalent as predictors of severe outcomes in patients with recent-onset polyarthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(3):R592-R603.
The prognostic value of two antibodies targeting citrullinated antigens, anti-Sa and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP), present at inclusion, was evaluated prospectively in a cohort of 165 consecutive patients with recent-onset or early polyarthritis (EPA) followed for up to 30 months. Patients were treated according to current Good Clinical Practice standards. Predefined outcomes were severe arthritis and persistent arthritis. At inclusion, a median of 3 months after disease onset, 133 (81%) patients fulfilled at least four American College of Rheumatology criteria for rheumatoid arthritis and 30 (18%) had erosive changes on radiographs of hands and feet. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs were used in close to 80% of the patients at 30 months. Joint damage increased linearly over time, whereas disease activity declined markedly and remained low at each follow-up. Autoantibodies were identified in 76 (46%) patients: rheumatoid factor (RF) in 68 (41%), anti-CCP in 53 (33%), and anti-Sa in 46 (28%). All three antibodies were correlated, but anti-Sa antibodies best predicted severity at 18 and 30 months. RF and anti-CCP performed less well. For both outcomes, anti-Sa alone performed better than any combination of antibodies. The presence of any autoantibody identified about 50 to 60% of the patients with poor outcomes. In multivariate analysis, anti-Sa (odds ratio (OR) 8.83), the presence of erosions at inclusion (OR 3.47) and increasing age (OR 1.06/year) were significantly associated with severity, whereas RF and anti-CCP were not significant predictors. Persistent arthritis was present in up to 84% of patients; autoantibodies were specific but poorly sensitive predictors of this outcome. We conclude that assays for antibodies against citrullinated antigens differ in their ability to predict poorer outcomes in patients with EPA. In our EPA cohort treated in accordance with current standards, detection of anti-Sa but not of RF or anti-CCP antibodies, in combination with clinical and radiological variables present at the first encounter, allowed the identification of a subgroup of EPA patients suffering more rapid and more severe joint damage over 30 months.
PMCID: PMC1174957  PMID: 15899046
5.  Rheumatoid arthritis specific anti-Sa antibodies target citrullinated vimentin 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;6(2):R142-R150.
Antibodies directed to the Sa antigen are highly specific for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and can be detected in approximately 40% of RA sera. The antigen, a doublet of protein bands of about 50 kDa, is present in placenta and in RA synovial tissue. Although it has been stated that the Sa antigen is citrullinated vimentin, experimental proof for this claim has never been published. In this study, we investigated the precise nature of the antigen. Peptide sequences that were obtained from highly purified Sa antigen were unique to vimentin. Recombinant vimentin, however, was not recognized by anti-Sa reference sera. In vivo, vimentin is subjected to various post-translational modifications, including citrullination. Since antibodies to citrullinated proteins are known to be highly specific for RA, we investigated whether Sa is citrullinated and found that Sa indeed is citrullinated vimentin. Anti-Sa antibodies thus belong to the family of anticitrullinated protein/peptide antibodies. The presence of the Sa antigen in RA synovial tissue, and the recent observation that vimentin is citrullinated in dying human macrophages, make citrullinated vimentin an interesting candidate autoantigen in RA and may provide new insights into the potential role of citrullinated synovial antigens and the antibodies directed to them in the pathophysiology of RA.
PMCID: PMC400433  PMID: 15059278
anticitrullinated protein/peptide antibodies; anti-Sa antibodies; citrullinated vimentin; rheumatoid arthritis; Sa antigen
6.  Insights into rheumatoid arthritis derived from the Sa immune system 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(6):429-432.
The Sa system is a recently described immune system that has a specificity and positive predictive value of nearly 100% for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Its sensitivity of 30-40% suggests that it identifies a subset of RA patients. Anti-Sa antibodies are present from disease onset and are predictive of disease severity. The immune reactants are plentiful in the target tissue: antigen is present in the synovium, IgG antibody in the fluid. Immunologically, Sa is a hapten-carrier antigen in which vimentin is the carrier and citrulline is the hapten. The citrullination of vimentin is closely related to apoptosis, and citrullinated vimentin is extremely sensitive to digestion by the ubiquitous calpains. Nevertheless, Sa is found in only a few cell lines. Calpastatin, the natural specific inhibitor of calpains, is also a RA-associated, albeit non-specific, autoimmune system. Is it possible that calpain-related apoptotic pathways could be prominent in cells containing Sa? The task is to reconcile the specificity of Sa/citrullinated proteins in a multifactorial and polygenic disease such as RA.
PMCID: PMC128869  PMID: 11094453
anti-Sa autoantibodies; citrullinated proteins; diagnosis; prognosis; rheumatoid arthritis
7.  Rheumatoid arthritis associated autoantibodies in patients with synovitis of recent onset 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(3):236-243.
An inception cohort of 238 patients having peripheral joint synovitis of less than 12 months duration was evaluated clinically and followed prospectively for 1 year to determine the clinical significance of a number of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) associated autoantibodies. Serum samples collected at the time of the initial evaluation were tested for rheumatoid factor (RF) and antibodies to Sa (anti-Sa), RA-33, (pro)filaggrin [antifilaggrin antibody (AFA)], cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP), calpastatin, and keratin [antikeratin antibody (AKA)]. RF had a sensitivity of 66% and a specificity of 87% for RA. Anti-Sa, AFA, and anti-CCP all had a specificity of more than 90%, but a sensitivity of less than 50% for this diagnosis. Overall, there was a high degree of correlation between AFA, AKA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, this being highest between anti-Sa and anti-CCP (odds ratio, 13.3; P < 0.001). Of the 101 patients who were positive for at least one of these four autoantibodies, 57% were positive for only one. Finally, anti-SA identified a subset of predominantly male RA patients with severe, erosive disease. Anti-SA, AFA and anti-CCP are all specific for early RA but, overall, have little additional diagnostic value over RF alone. Although these antibodies may preferentially recognize citrullinated antigens, the modest degree of concordance between them in individual patient sera suggests that it is unlikely a single antigen is involved in generating these responses.
A spectrum of autoantibodies is now known to be specifically associated with RA. There continues to be uncertainty as to what stage of the disease each of these autoantibodies develop, and whether they are associated with unique clinical features.
To help address these questions, a spectrum of autoantibodies known to be associated with RA in a cohort of patients with early synovitis was evaluated.
An inception cohort of 238 patients having peripheral joint synovitis of less than 12 months duration was evaluated clinicially then followed prospectively for 1 year. Patients were classified as having RA on the basis of fulfilling the 1987 criteria. Serum samples collected at the time of the initial evaluation were tested for anti-Sa and anti-RA-33 using immunoblotting, and to (pro)filaggrin (AFA), anti-CCP, and calpastatin (anti-RA-1) using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay techniques. AKA were detected using immunoflurescence on human epidermal tissue. RF was tested by nephelometry. HLA-DRB1 alleles were determined using sequence specific primers. Initial and 1 year radiographs were evaluated for the presence of erosions.
Of the 238 patients with synovitis of recent onset in the cohort, 106 (45%) met RA criteria, 102 (96%) of whom met the criteria on their initial visit. Diagnoses in the remaining patients included 22 (9%) with reactive arthritis, 14 (6%) with psoriatic arthritis or another form of spondylarthropathy, 11 (5%) with another well-defined rheumatic diagnosis, and 85 (36%) with undifferentiated arthritis. The RA patients were significantly older than the nonRA patients (46 ± 13 versus 39 ± 13; P < 0.001), had higher mean swollen joint count (13.8 ± 9.7 versus 2.3 ± 2.3; P < 0.001), and higher C-reactive protein (CRP) level (1.9 ± 1.9 versus 1.6 ± 2.4; P < 0.01). Table 1 summarizes the prevalence of the various RA associated antibodies in patients diagnosed as having RF-positive (RF+) RA, RF-negative (RF-) RA, and nonRA. Regarding the characteristics of these tests, RF had the highest sensitivity at 66%, and all the other antibodies individually were less than 50% sensitive. AFA, anti-Sa, anti-CCP were greater than 90% specific for RA, while RF and AKA were 80-90% specific, and anti-RA-33 and anti-RA-1 was not specific for this diagnosis. The data further indicate that adding any one of AFA, AKA, anti-Sa, or anti-CCP to RF increases the specificity for RA from 80 to 90%. In the absence of RF, the presence of one or more of these antibodies carried a sensitivity of only 31% for RF- RA, with anti-Sa being the most specific at 98%. Overall, there was a high degree of correlation between AFA, AKA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, this being highest between anti-Sa and anti-CCP (odds ratio, 13.3; P < 0.001). Despite this high level of correlation, of the 101 patients who were positive for at least one of these four autoantibodies, 57% were positive for only one, suggesting considerable variability in individual reactivity patterns.
RA has been shown in multiple populations to be associated with HLA-DRB1 alleles encoding for the shared epitope (SE). In this study, as illustrated in Table 2, the presence of each of these autoantibodies was significantly associated with having two shared epitope alleles, even when only the RA patients were considered.
Patients with anti-Sa antibodies were predominantly male (61% versus 28%; P<0.01), had significantly higher swollen joint counts (18 ± 12 versus 13 ± 9; P=0.02), and higher CRP levels (2.6 ± 3 mg/dl versus 1.6 ± 1.4 mg/dl; P=0.03) at the initial visit. Despite subsequently begin treated with significantly higher doses of prednisone (4.8 ± 6.0 mg/day versus 1.8 ± 3.3 mg/day; P<0.01), and more disease modifying antirheumatic drug therapy (1.4 ± 0.8 versus 0.9 ± 0.7 disease modifying antirheumatic drugs; P<0.01), the anti-Sa-positive RA patients had a higher frequency of erosions than the rest of the RA patients (60% versus 33%; P=0.03). Neither RF nor SE were associated with the disease severity measures, and analyses evaluating all the other autoantibodies failed to reveal a similar trend.
Despite a well-documented lack of specificity, RF continues to be a central part of the definition of RA, primarily because of its favourable sensitivity profile. In our cohort, RF had a sensitivity of 66%, a specificity of 87%, and an overall accuracy of 78% for the diagnosis of RA. AFA, anti-Sa, anti-CCP were all highly specific for this diagnosis, and when any of them were present in conjunction with RF, the specificity for RA approached 100%. Potentially of more importance to the clinician is the diagnostic value of these antibodies when RF is not detectable. Our data indicate that only 31% of RF- RA patients had any of AKA, AFA, anti-Sa or anti-CCP, and that anti-Sa was the most specific for this diagnosis. This modest level of sensitivity suggests that testing for this spectrum of autoantibodies carries little advantage over RF alone in diagnosing early RA.
AFA, AKA, and antiperinuclear factor (APF) have all been proposed to identify a common antigen present in the skin protein (pro)filaggrin. It has continued to be puzzling why a skin antigen would be targeted relatively specifically in a disorder that is primarily articular. A potential explanation for this may relate to the demonstration that citrulline appears to be an essential constituent of the antigenic determinants recognized by AKA, APF, and AFA. The citrulline rich (pro)filaggrin molecule makes an ideal substrate for detecting this reactivity. Moreover, the SA antigen, which, unlike (pro)filaggrin, is detectable in rheumatoid synovium, has recently been shown to also be citrullinated. It is thus possible that AKA, AFA, APE, and anti-Sa all recognize one or more citrullinated antigens. Despite this possibility, the modest degree of concordance between them in individual patient sera suggests that it is unlikely that a single antigen is involved in generating these responses.
This study provides evidence suggesting that anti-Sa antibodies appear to be a marker for a subset of early RA patients whose disease may be more severe and erosive. Moreover, it was determined that anti-Sa, AFA, and anti-CCP were all highly associated with SE, particularly two copies. We examined a spectrum of potential RA severity indicators including the number of swollen joints, CRP level, and presence of early radiographic erosions. Our data indicate that anti-Sa was more highly associated with these measures of RA severity than any other parameter, including the most accepted prognostic indicators, RF and SE.
In conclusion, it is demonstrated that antibodies directed against putatively citrullinated antigens including SA, filaggrin, keratin, and CCP are the most specific for RA, and are detectable early in the disease course. It will be of interest to find out whether the cumulative prevalence of specific autoantibody subsets tends to increase over time, as this would suggest that the mechanisms underlying the development of these reactivities continue to evolve over the course of the arthropathy.
PMCID: PMC17811  PMID: 11056669
autoantibodies; early synovitis; human leukocyte antigen; rheumatoid arthritis; spondylarthropathy

Results 1-7 (7)