Autoantibodies occur in low frequencies among patients with myositis characterizing only distinct subsets of this disease. Most of these known antibodies are directed to enzymatically active complexes. The 20S proteasome represents an essential cytoplasmatic protein complex for intracellular nonlysosomal protein degradation, and is involved in major histocompatibility complex class I restricted antigen processing. In this study we investigated whether the 20S proteasome complex is an antibody target in myositis and in other autoimmune diseases. 34 sera of poly/dermatomyositis patients were assayed for antiproteasomal antibodies using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, immunoblot, and two-dimensional non-equilibrium pH gradient electrophoresis (NEPHGE). Sera was from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), mixed connective tissue disease, and rheumatoid arthritis; healthy volunteers served as controls. In 62% (21/34) of the cases sera from patients with myositis and in 58% (30/52) of the cases sera from patients with SLE reacted with the 20S proteasome. These frequencies exceeded those of sera from patients with mixed connective tissue disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and healthy controls. The alpha-type subunit C9 of the 20S proteasome was determined to be the predominant target of the autoimmune sera in myositis and SLE. Lacking other frequent autoantibodies in myositis, the antiproteasome antibodies are the most common humoral immune response so far detected in this disease entity.

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