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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 494356, 6 pages
Review Article

The Clinical Significance of the Dense Fine Speckled Immunofluorescence Pattern on HEp-2 Cells for the Diagnosis of Systemic Autoimmune Diseases

1INOVA Diagnostics, Inc., 9900 Old Grove Road, San Diego, CA 32131-1638, USA
2Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada T3H 1H7

Received 12 October 2012; Accepted 1 November 2012

Academic Editor: Dimitrios P. Bogdanos

Copyright © 2012 Michael Mahler and Marvin J. Fritzler. 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.


Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are a serological hallmark in the diagnosis of systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARD). The indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) assay on HEp-2 cells is a commonly used test for the detection of ANA and has been recently recommended as the screening test of choice by a task force of the American College of Rheumatology. However, up to 20% of apparently healthy individuals (HI) have been reported to have a positive IIF ANA test, primarily related to autoantibodies that target the dense fine speckles 70 (DFS70) antigen. Even more important, the DFS IIF pattern has been reported in up to 33% of ANA positive HI, but not in ANA positive SARD sera. Since the intended use of the ANA HEp-2 test is to aid in the diagnosis and classification of SARD, the detection and reporting of anti-DFS70 antibodies and their associated pattern (DFS) as a positive test significantly reduce the specificity and the positive likelihood of the ANA test. This has significant implications for medical management and diagnostic algorithms involving the detection of ANA. Recently, a novel immunoadsorption method has been developed that specifically blocks anti-DFS70 antibodies and, therefore, significantly increases the specificity of the ANA test for SARD. This immunoadsorption method has the potential to overcome a significant limitation of the ANA HEp-2 assay. The present paper summarizes the current knowledge about anti-DFS70 antibodies and their clinical impact on ANA testing.