The purpose of this study was to discover and validate inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain H3 (ITIH3) as novel biomarkers, and evaluate autoantibody isotypes against an unmodified and citrullinated ITIH3542-556 peptide among Taiwanese female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), secondary Sjögren's syndrome in rheumatoid arthritis (RA-sSS), and healthy controls (HCs). We used concanavalin A (Con A) affinity chromatography, 1-D SDS-PAGE, and label-free nano-LC-MS/MS to screen biomarker candidates (serum-derived Con A-captured proteins) and then identify PTMs of validated biomarkers (serum proteins) using pooled serum from 7 RA-sSS female patients and 7 age-matched HCs (the discovery set). Furthermore, the protein level and autoantibody isotype analyses were further validated against individual serum from 18 HCs, 18 RA, 18 pSS, and 18 RA-sSS patients (the validation set). Con A-bound ITIH3 was identified and validated as the only differentially expressed protein, which was elevated. Additionally, 2 novel PTMs in ITIH3 were identified and included citrullination at arginine-546 and arginine-556, and hexosamine at tryptophan-558. Further, concentrations of anti-citrullinatd-ITIH3542-556 peptide autoantibodies significantly increased in patients with RA, pSS, and RA-sSS compared to HCs. Especially, autoantibody IgM against the citrullinated-ITIH3542-556 peptide showed better diagnostic performance in discriminating both RA versus pSS and pSS versus RA-sSS. Significance: By using comparative proteomic analysis of serum samples, the current study discovered and validates differentially expressed Con A-bound ITIH3 as a potential biomarker for secondary Sjögren's syndrome (SS) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and healthy controls (HCs). Besides, hexosamine and citrullination on ITIH3 were further identified. Through analyzing autoantibody isotypes against the citrullinated ITIH3 peptide, patients with RA, primary SS, and RA-secondary SS, and HCs can be further discriminated. The current strategy can be applied for identifying potential diagnostic and pathologic markers for autoimmune diseases.
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