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Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune fibrotic disease affecting multiple tissues including the lung. A subset of patients with SSc with lung disease exhibit short telomeres in circulating lymphocytes, but the mechanisms underlying this observation are unclear. Sera from the Johns Hopkins and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Scleroderma Centers were screened for autoantibodies targeting telomerase and the shelterin proteins using immunoprecipitation and ELISA. We determined the relationship between autoantibodies targeting the shelterin protein TERF1 and telomere length in peripheral leucocytes measured by qPCR and flow cytometry and fluorescent in situ hybridisation (Flow-FISH). We also explored clinical associations of these autoantibodies. In a subset of patients with SSc, we identified autoantibodies targeting telomerase and the shelterin proteins that were rarely present in rheumatoid arthritis, myositis and healthy controls. TERF1 autoantibodies were present in 40/442 (9.0%) patients with SSc and were associated with severe lung disease (OR 2.4, p=0.04, Fisher's exact test) and short lymphocyte telomere length. 6/6 (100%) patients with TERF1 autoantibodies in the Hopkins cohort and 14/18 (78%) patients in the UCSF cohort had a shorter telomere length in lymphocytes or leukocytes, respectively, relative to the expected age-adjusted telomere length. TERF1 autoantibodies were present in 11/152 (7.2%) patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a fibrotic lung disease believed to be mediated by telomere dysfunction. Autoantibodies targeting telomere-associated proteins in a subset of patients with SSc are associated with short lymphocyte telomere length and lung disease. The specificity of these autoantibodies for SSc and IPF suggests that telomere dysfunction may have a distinct role in the pathogenesis of SSc and pulmonary fibrosis. © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

Citation

Brittany L Adler, Francesco Boin, Paul J Wolters, Clifton O Bingham, Ami A Shah, Carol Greider, Livia Casciola-Rosen, Antony Rosen. Autoantibodies targeting telomere-associated proteins in systemic sclerosis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases. 2021 Jan 25


PMID: 33495152

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