A sequence-specific conformational epitope on U1 RNA is recognized by a unique autoantibody.
An autoantibody from a patient with lupus-overlap syndrome was found to bind a specific region of U1 RNA. By using RNA sequence analysis, immunoprecipitation, and competition experiments with in vitro synthesized fragments of U1 RNA, a region of 40 nucleotides representing a stem-loop secondary structure was found to be an immunoreactive domain. This antibody recognized a conformational epitope because neither the RNA stem nor the RNA loop alone was immunoprecipitable. Antisense U1 RNA, U1 DNA, and other small RNAs were not reactive with the antibody. While the origins of nucleic acid-binding antibodies are unknown, this RNA-specific autoantibody probably originated by direct presentation to the immune system or as an anti-idiotype against a more common U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein-specific autoantibody. Thus, these findings have implications for the mechanisms of autoimmune recognition and provide an immunological approach to probing RNA structure and protein-RNA interactions.
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