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Open Access Research article

Atypical clinical presentation of a subset of patients with anti-RNA polymerase III - non-scleroderma cases associated with dominant RNA polymerase I reactivity and nucleolar staining

Angela Ceribelli1, Malgorzata E Krzyszczak2, Yi Li2, Steven J Ross12, Jason YF Chan2, Edward KL Chan1, Rufus W Burlingame3, Tyler T Webb3, Michael R Bubb2, Eric S Sobel24, Westley H Reeves24 and Minoru Satoh24*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oral Biology, University of Florida, 1395 Center Drive, Gainesville, FL 32610-0424, USA

2 Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of Florida, 1600 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32610-0221, USA

3 INOVA Diagnostics, Inc., 9900 Old Grove Road, San Diego, CA, 92131-1638, USA

4 Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine, University of Florida, 1600 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32610-0221, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R119  doi:10.1186/ar3422

Published: 22 July 2011

Abstract

Introduction

Anti-RNA polymerase III (RNAP III) antibodies are highly specific markers of scleroderma (systemic sclerosis, SSc) and associated with a rapidly progressing subset of SSc. The clinical presentation of anti-RNAP III positive patients, onset of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) and SSc in unselected patients in a rheumatology clinic were evaluated.

Methods

Autoantibodies in sera from 1,966 unselected patients (including 434 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 119 SSc, 85 polymyositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM)) in a rheumatology clinic were screened by radioimmunoprecipitation. Anti-RNAP III positive sera were also tested by immunofluorescence antinuclear antibodies and anti-RNAP III ELISA. Medical records of anti-RNAP III positive patients were reviewed.

Results

Among 21 anti-RNAP III positive patients, 16 met the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) SSc criteria at the initial visit but 5 did not; diagnoses were vasculitis, early polyarthritis, renal failure with RP, interstitial lung disease, and Sjögren's syndrome. The first two patients developed rapidly progressive diffuse SSc. An additional case presented with diffuse scleroderma without RP and RP developed two years later. Anti-RNAP III antibodies in these 6 cases of atypical clinical presentation were compared with those in 15 cases of typical (SSc with RP) cases. Anti-RNAP III levels by ELISA were lower in the former group (P = 0.04 by Mann-Whitney test) and 3 of 6 were negative versus only 1 of 15 negative in the latter (P < 0.05 by Fisher's exact test). Three cases of non-SSc anti-RNAP III positive patients had predominant reactivity with RNAP I with weak RNAP III reactivity and had a strong nucleolar staining. Three anti-RNAP III patients, who did not have RP at the initial visit, developed RP months later. Scleroderma developed prior to RP in 5 out of 16 (31%) in the anti-RNAP III group, but this was rare in patients with other autoantibodies. The interval between the onset of RP to scleroderma was short in anti-RNAP III positive patients.

Conclusions

Anti-RNAP III antibodies are highly specific for SSc; however, a subset of anti-RNAP III positive patients do not present as typical SSc. The interval between RP and scleroderma in this group is short, and 31% of patients developed scleroderma prior to RP in this group. Anti-RNAP III positive patients may not present as typical SSc and detecting anti-RNAP III may have predictive value.