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Autoantigens in primary biliary cirrhosis
  1. D E J Jones1
  1. 1Centre for Liver Research, 4th Floor William Leech Building, The Medical School, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
  1. Dr Jones D.E.J.Jones{at}


The automimmune liver disease primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is characterised by serum autoantibodies directed at mitochondrial and nuclear antigens (seen in most patients and a subset of patients, respectively). The antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) characteristic of PBC are directed at members of the 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase components of multienzyme complexes; in particular, the E2 and E3 binding protein (E3BP) components of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC). The presence of autoantibodies reactive with PDC-E2 and/or E3BP is strongly predictive of the presence of PBC. Therefore, the detection of these antibodies plays a very important role in the diagnosis of PBC. Originally demonstrated using immunofluorescence approaches, AMA can now be detected by the use of commercially available enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). Although the ELISA based approaches have advantages in terms of laboratory practicality, they are slightly less sensitive for the diagnosis of PBC than immunofluorescence (occasional patients with PBC show reactivity with PDC related antigens not present in the antigen preparations available for use with ELISA). Therefore, immunofluorescence should continue to be available as a complementary diagnostic test for use in occasional patients. In a subset of patients with PBC, autoantibodies are directed at increasingly well characterised nuclear antigens. Antinuclear antibody (ANA) positive patients are typically AMA negative. There are no significant differences in disease phenotype between AMA positive and AMA negative groups. At present, the clinical detection of ANA is mostly by Hep2 immunofluorescence, although ELISA kits for individual nuclear antigens are increasingly becoming available.

  • liver cirrhosis
  • biliary
  • autoimmunity
  • autoantibody

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