Research ArticleAutoimmunity

Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans–induced hypercitrullination links periodontal infection to autoimmunity in rheumatoid arthritis

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Science Translational Medicine  14 Dec 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 369, pp. 369ra176
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaj1921

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A joint effect of bacteria and genetics

Although rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, scientists have long suspected that bacterial infections (and in particular, periodontal infections) may play a role in its pathogenesis. Konig et al. now demonstrate that a particular periodontal pathogen called Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (Aa) induces changes in neutrophil function, including hypercitrullination of host proteins, an abnormality that is also observed in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, the effect of HLA-DRB1, an allele associated with increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, was only observed in patients exposed to Aa, suggesting the possibility of eventually using these results to identify and possibly even treat high-risk patients.

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