The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of autoantibodies to cyclic citrullinated synthetic peptides (ACPAs) in the sputum of patients with long-standing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Nineteen consecutive RA patients and 16 age- and sex-matched control subjects participated in this cross-sectional study. All underwent complete lung function tests and provided induced sputum. Antibodies to citrullinated (CitP) and the corresponding norleucine-containing (NorP) peptides in the sputum of the RA patients and control subjects, as well as in the serum of the RA patients, were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Patients with RA had the following characteristics: mean disease duration of 12 years, Disease Activity Score for 28 joints of 3.44, and Sharp–van der Heijde score of 57.5. Ten of the 19 RA patients showed high titers of ACPAs in their sera. Four of the seropositive (40%), none of the seronegative RA patients, and only 1 of the control subjects showed detectable levels of ACPAs in their sputum. The ratio between the reactivity with CitP and NorP peptides in the sputum was significantly higher in RA sputum than in control sputum (1.33 ± 1.2 vs. 0.64 ± 0.14, P = 0.02). A positive correlation was found between sputum ACPAs and age, serum ACPAs, sputum anti-NorP, serum anti-CitP/NorP reactivity ratio, and the proportion of neutrophils and lymphocytes in the sputum. No significant correlation was found between sputum ACPAs and disease severity, history of smoking, lung function tests, or treatment for RA.
Anticitrullinated protein/peptide antibodies can be detected in the sputum of RA patients and are correlated with the presence in the serum.