Seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by autoantibodies binding to citrullinated and homocitrullinated proteins. We wanted to study the expression patterns of these disease-associated protein forms and if the rheumatoid nodule and synovial tissue itself contain biologically active levels of citrullinating peptidyl arginine deiminases 2, 3 and 4 and homocitrullination-facilitating neutrophil enzyme myeloperoxidase. Total of 195 synovial samples from metatarsal joints from five ACPA/RF-positive RA patients (n = 77), synovial samples from knees of eight seropositive RA (n = 60), seven seronegative RA (n = 33) and five osteoarthritis (n = 25) patients were analyzed for citrulline and homocitrulline contents using HPLC. The location of citrulline- and homocitrulline-containing proteins, PAD 2, 3, 4 and myeloperoxidase were shown by immunostaining. Myeloperoxidase and citrulline- or homocitrulline-containing proteins were stained on Western blot. Overall, necrosis was frequent in metatarsals of seropositive RA and absent in seronegative RA and osteoarthritis patients. In histological analysis, there was a significant local patterning and variation in the citrulline and homocitrulline content and it was highest in metatarsal synovial tissues of seropositive RA patients. We found peptidyl arginine deiminase 2, 3 and 4 in the lining and sublining layers of intact synovial tissue. Myeloperoxidase was found locally around necrotic areas. The tissues with necrosis contained the highest levels of citrulline and homocitrulline. Rheumatoid nodules and synovia contain significant amount of PAD2, 3 and 4 and myeloperoxidase enzymes. These enzymes could explain the levels of citrulline and homocitrulline in seropositive RA synovial and rheumatoid nodule tissues especially around necrotic tissue.
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