Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients have a variety of auto-antibodies in the serum and synovial fluid. Among these auto-antibodies, those directed against citrullinated proteins are distinguished because that are specific for RA, appear early during the evolution of the disease and they are important to assist in the diagnosis of the illness. Examples of citrullinated antigens recognized by autoantibodies in rheumatoid arthritis are profillagrin, fillagrin and vimentin. Cells and tissues rich in those proteins have been used as substrate for the first laboratory assays for the detection of this class of autoantibodies. The discovery that the epitopes recognized by these autoantibodies are citrullin-bearing peptides permited the development of ELISA assays. The ELISA format allows better standardization and higher reproducibility for the tests, resulting in worldwide acceptance of these autoantibodies as the most specific and early serologic markers for the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. There is controversy regarding the ability of these autoantibodies in predicting disease evolution. The role of antibodies to citrullinated peptides in the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis is supported by their extreme specificity for the disease, by the finding of citrullinated proteins in inflamed synovia, by the intraarticular production of these autoantibodies and by the extreme affinity of citrullinated peptides for HLA-DRB1 molecules bearing the shared epitope. These findings forecast the possibility of novel and exciting discoveries towards a better understanding of the pathophysiology of rheumatoid arthritis.
rheumatoid arthritis; citrulline; anticitrullinated proteins antibodies; autoantibodies