To date, no comprehensive analysis of autoantibodies in sera of patients with ulcerative colitis has been conducted. To analyze the spectrum of autoantibodies and to elucidate their role serum-IgG from UC patients (n = 49) and non-UC donors (n = 23) were screened by using a human protein microarray. Screening yielded a remarkable number of 697 differentially-reactive at the nominal 0·01 significance level (FDR<0·1) of the univariate test between the UC and the non-UC group. CD99 emerged as a biomarker to discriminate between both groups (p = 1e-04, AUC = 0·8). In addition, cytokines, chemokines and growth factors were analyzed by Olink's Proseek® Multiplex Inflammation-I 96×96 immuno-qPCR assay and 31 genes were significant at the nominal 0.05 level of the univariate test to discriminate between UC and non-UC donors. MCP-3, HGF and CXCL-9 were identified as the most significant markers to discriminate between UC patients with clinically active and inactive disease. Levels of CXCL10 (cor = 0.3; p = 0.02), CCL25 (cor = 0.25; p = 0.04) and CCL28 (cor = 0.3; p = 0.02) correlated positively with levels of anti CD99. To assess whether autoantibodies are detectable prior to diagnosis with UC, sera from nine donors at two different time points (T-early, median 21 months and T-late, median 6 months) were analyzed. 1201 features were identified with higher reactivity in samples at time points closer to clinical UC presentation. In vitro, additional challenge of peripheral mononuclear cells with CD99 did not activate CD4+ T cells but induced the secretion of IL-10 (-CD99: 20.21±20.25; +CD99: 130.20±89.55; mean ±sd; p = 0.015). To examine the effect of CD99 in vivo, inflammation and autoantibody levels were examined in NOD/ScidIL2Rγnull mice reconstituted with PBMC from UC donors (NSG-UC). Additional challenge with CD99 aggravated disease symptoms and pathological phenotype as indicated by the elevated clinical score (-CD99: 1·85 ± 1·94; +CD99: 4·25 ± 1·48) and histological score (-CD99: 2·16 ± 0·83; +CD99: 3·15 ± 1·16, p = 0·01). Furthermore, levels of anti-CD99 antibodies increased (Control: 398 ± 323; mean MFI ± sd; Ethanol + PBS: 358 ±316; Ethanol + CD99: 1363 ± 1336; Control versus Ethanol + CD99: p = 0.03). In a highly inflammatory environment, frequencies of pro-inflammatory M1 monocytes (CD14+ CD64+: unchallenged 8.09±4.72; challenged 14.2±8.62; p = 0.07; CD14+ CD1a+: unchallenged 16.29 ±6.97; challenged 43.81±14.4, p = 0.0003) increased and levels of autoantibodies in serum decreased in the NSG-UC mouse model. These results suggest that autoantibodies are potent biomarkers to discriminate between UC and non-UC and indicate risk to develop UC. In an inflammatory environment, auto-antibodies may promote the pathological phenotype by activating M1 monocytes in the NSG-UC animal model and also in patients with UC.
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