Whether serum autoantibodies to neutrophil cytoplasmic components, previously found in ulcerative colitis, are also associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis was determined. In an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for immunoglobulin G neutrophil antibodies, neutrophil binding by primary sclerosing cholangitis sera was significantly greater than that for primary biliary cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B, and chronic non-A, non-B hepatitis. Similar differences were seen when sera from patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis without evidence for ulcerative colitis were compared with sera from liver disease controls. Perinuclear immunofluorescence staining of neutrophils was exhibited by the majority of ulcerative colitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis without ulcerative colitis sera. The combination of elevated immunoglobulin G neutrophil antibodies and a perinuclear pattern was 65% sensitive and 100% specific for primary sclerosing cholangitis compared with the liver disease control sera. It is concluded that neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies in ulcerative colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis may be markers of shared underlying immunopathogenic mechanisms. Identification of the target antigen(s) may facilitate understanding of the underlying immune response and development of an improved disease marker assay.
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