Small nuclear ribonucleoprotein complexes are antigens in various autoimmune diseases. The serological pattern of high titers of circulating antibody to nuclear ribonucleoprotein (RNP) antigen is a diagnostic marker for mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD); whereas antibody to Sm is prevalent in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Both calf thymus and rabbit thymus are commonly used, excellent sources for preparation of the corresponding antigens RNP and Sm in clinical and research laboratories (A. M. Boak et al., accompanying paper). Thus, biochemical and structural characterization of the minimal antigenic determinant in these preparations is important for its use in the laboratory, as well as significant for understanding MCTD, SLE, and other examples of autoimmunity. Purification and biochemical analyses of immunologically active RNP from many different preparations of calf thymus extract has revealed that the majority of antibody in monospecific MCTD patient sera recognizes an antigen composed of the 165 nucleotide RNA, Ul RNA, and five peptides. Calf thymus Ul RNA was found to be identical in sequence to that of man. A sequence of 55 nucleotides within the 165 nucleotide RNA was the minimal RNA fragment found in RNP particles that were still immunologically active. Two of the RNP peptides react with patient sera monospecific for RNP and thus, are presumably the antigenic peptides complexed with the 55 nucleotide RNA sequence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas