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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2013, Article ID 453058, 10 pages
Review Article

An Innovative Method to Identify Autoantigens Expressed on the Endothelial Cell Surface: Serological Identification System for Autoantigens Using a Retroviral Vector and Flow Cytometry (SARF)

1Department of Hematology and Rheumatology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-1 Seiryo-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8574, Japan
2Department of Histopathology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-1 Seiryo-cho, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8574, Japan

Received 21 September 2012; Revised 20 November 2012; Accepted 21 November 2012

Academic Editor: Xavier Bossuyt

Copyright © 2013 Tsuyoshi Shirai et al. 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.


Autoantibodies against integral membrane proteins are usually pathogenic. Although anti-endothelial cell antibodies (AECAs) are considered to be critical, especially for vascular lesions in collagen diseases, most molecules identified as autoantigens for AECAs are localized within the cell and not expressed on the cell surface. For identification of autoantigens, proteomics and expression library analyses have been performed for many years with some success. To specifically target cell-surface molecules in identification of autoantigens, we constructed a serological identification system for autoantigens using a retroviral vector and flow cytometry (SARF). Here, we present an overview of recent research in AECAs and their target molecules and discuss the principle and the application of SARF. Using SARF, we successfully identified three different membrane proteins: fibronectin leucine-rich transmembrane protein 2 (FLRT2) from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) from a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, and Pk (Gb3/CD77) from an SLE patient with hemolytic anemia, as targets for AECAs. SARF is useful for specific identification of autoantigens expressed on the cell surface, and identification of such interactions of the cell-surface autoantigens and pathogenic autoantibodies may enable the development of more specific intervention strategies in autoimmune diseases.