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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 13 (2006), Issue 2-4, Pages 289-294

Serum Reactivity Against Bacterial Pyruvate Dehydrogenase: Increasing the Specificity of Anti-Mitochondrial Antibodies for the Diagnosis of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

1Fourth Department of Internal Medicine, Teikyo University School of Medicine, Kanagawa 213-8507, Japan
2Department of Medicine, Teikyo University School of Medicine, Tokyo 173-8605, Japan
3Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Surgery and Dentistry, San Pauro School of Medicine, University of Milan, Milan 359-8513, Italy
4Second Department of Internal Medicine, National Defense Medical College, Saitama, Japan
5Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, Davis, CA, USA

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) are the serum hallmark of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). However, AMA-positivity can be found in non-PBC sera when lower dilutions are used, thus raising issues about the specificity and sensitivity of the test. AMA reacts primarily with the lipoylated domains of pyruvate dehydrogenase-E2 (PDC-E2) which is highly conserved across species, including bacteria. We studied 77 serum samples, including 24 from patients with anti-PDC-E2-positive PBC and 53 controls (16 with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), 10 with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), and 27 healthy individuals) for their reactivities at serial dilutions (1:10, 1:20 and 1:40) against Escherichia coli DH5 alpha lysate overexpressing human PDC-E2 using immunoblotting (IB). A murine anti-human PDC-E2 monoclonal antibody (mAB) was used as control. We further studied positive sera using adsorption with a synthetic E. coli peptide sharing similarity with human PDC-E2. Finally, we verified whether a unique buffer for E. coli preparation could reduce non-specific serum reactivity. Results demonstrated that 100% of anti-PDC-E2-positive PBC and up to 38% of control sera at 1:10 dilution recognized E. coli PDC-E2 at IB while dilution tests indicated that the overall potency of PBC reactivity was 100-fold higher compared to controls. In fact, a subgroup (20-38%) of non-PBC sera were positive at low titers but lost the reactivity when absorbed with the synthetic E. coli peptide. Finally, our unique buffer reduced the reactivity of non-PBC sera as measured by ELISA. In conclusion, we demonstrated that weak cross-reactivity with E. coli PDC-E2 occurs in non-PBC sera at lower dilutions and that such reactivity is not due to AMA-positivity. The use of a specific buffer might avoid the risk of false positive AMA determinations when E. coli-expressed recombinant antigens are used.