Author(s): C Roozendaal, G Horst, K Pogny, A W M van Milligen de Wit, J H Kleibeuker
Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are autoantibodies directed against cytoplasmic constituents of neutrophil granulocytes. Antibodies with specificity for proteinase 3 and myeloperoxidase are seromarkers for systemic vasculitides. ANCA with specificity for lactoferrin were described in patients with several idiopathic inflammatory diseases, such as the inflammatory bowel diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. However, the clinical significance of anti-lactoferrin autoantibodies is still unclear. In this study, we determined the clinical significance of anti-lactoferrin autoantibodies in sera from large groups of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn's disease (CD), and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Antibodies to human lactoferrin were detected by ELISA and by immunoblotting, using an extract of sonicated neutrophils as antigen source. Autoantibodies to lactoferrin were found in 29% of patients with UC, 13% of patients with CD, and 22% of patients with PSC. In inflammatory bowel diseases, the presence of anti-lactoferrin antibodies was not related to treatment, disease activity, duration of disease, or disease extent. In PSC, the presence of autoantibodies to lactoferrin did not correlate with duration of disease or the presence of cirrhosis. However, patients with PSC and coexistent UC had significantly more frequently antibodies to lactoferrin than PSC patients without IBD. In conclusion, autoantibodies to lactoferrin are a common feature of inflammatory bowel diseases and PSC. However, the clinical significance of those autoantibodies is limited as they lack sensitivity and specificity for those disorders. Future research should address the pathophysiological role of anti-lactoferrin ANCA and the influence of anti-lactoferrin ANCA binding on the functional properties of the lactoferrin molecule.