Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune disease of liver associated with a unique serologic response to mitochondrial autoantigens. Many of the autoantigens recognized by autoantibodies in PBC are members of the 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase complex. The two major autoantigens are the E2 component of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC-E2) and the E2 component of the branched chain 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase complex (BCOADC-E2). The autoantibody response to PDCE2 has been mapped to one immunodominant epitope, which consists of both linear and conformational components. The presence of a single immunodominant epitope in PDC-E2 is unusual when contrasted to the immune response to autoantigens in other human autoimmune diseases. We have mapped the epitope recognized by antimitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA) specific to BCOADC-E2 in patients with PBC by taking advantage of the full-length bovine BCOADC-E2 complementary DNA (cDNA) and a series of expression clones spanning the entire molecule. Reactivity to the various expression clones was studied by immunoblotting, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), as well as selective absorption of patient sera by expressed protein fragments. Autoantibodies to BCOADC-E2 map within peptides spanning amino acid residues 1 to 227 of the mature protein; our data demonstrate that the epitope is dependent on conformation and includes the lipoic acid binding region. However, only the full-length clone (amino acid residue 1 to 421) is sufficient to remove all detectable BCOADC-E2 reactivity. Moreover, the absence of lipoic acid on the recombinant polypeptides used in this study indicates that antibody binding to BCOADC-E2 is not dependent on the presence of lipoic acid.
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