Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is a prototypical systemic autoimmune disease, where autoimmune processes lead to the dysfunction of the exocrine glands. The key feature of the disease is autoimmune exocrinopathy, causing reduced tear secretion and subsequent keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS). The aim of this study was to investigate the connection between the presence of autoantibodies to lachrymal gland antigens and the reduced tear production in patients with primary SS. Ninety-nine patients, 90 women and 9 men, were investigated in the study. Twenty healthy young women served as controls. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blotting were applied to detect autoantibodies to antigen fractions prepared from the human lachrymal gland membrane and cytosolic fractions. Autoantibodies of the IgG, IgA and IgM isotypes to the lachrymal membrane and cytosolic fractions were detected in about one third (27%) of the patients with primary SS. IgA antobodies to the membrane and cytosolic fractions occurred most frequently in SS patients. A significant difference was found in the presence of IgA antibodies to the membrane lachrymal fraction between patients and controls given in ELISA indices (1.23 +/- 0.3 vs 1 +/- 0.19, p < 0.001). IgG, IgA, and IgM isotypes of autoantibodies directed to the membrane lachrymal fraction of 200-180, 120-116, 80-70, 58, 50, 48.5, 40 and 28.8 kDa were also identified in patients. Membrane IgG antibody levels showed a positive correlation (R = 0.998; p = 0.045) with the clinical loss of secretory function (Schirmer's test values). Positive correlation was found between membrane IgM and anti-SS-A levels (R = 0.962; p = 0.038) and also between cytosolic IgM antibodies and anti-SS-A levels (R = 0.982; p = 0.018). IgG, IgA and IgM types of autoantibodies may play a role in the development of the impaired lachrymal secretion and therefore may be involved in the pathogenesis of KCS.
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