Autoantibodies against prothrombin, including lupus anticoagulant antibodies (LAC), have been identified in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). To identify the epitopes of LAC in patients with SLE and APS, we analyzed B cell epitopes of anti-prothrombin Abs. Prothrombin was purified from fresh plasma samples from healthy subjects, and fragmented by thrombin. Two fragments (prethrombin-1, 50 kDa, and fragment-1, 22 kDa) were separated and used for further experiments. The two fragments were coated on irradiated plate and the binding activities of sera from 13 patients with anti-prothrombin Abs (SLE, 7; APS, 4; SLE + APS, 2) were determined by using ELISA. The assay was conducted under the following conditions: use of irradiated plates, and TBS containing Tween-20. We detected two types of anti-prothrombin Abs. The first was anti-prethrombin-1 (n = 5) while the other was Ab against fragment-1 (n = 8). There were no patients with Abs that showed binding activities to both fragments. A higher proportion of patients with thrombosis were positive for anti-prethrombin-1 Abs (80%) than for anti-fragment-1 Abs (25%). Two patients with anti-prethrombin-1 Ab were positive for LAC and negative for anti-cardiolipin-β2 glycoprotein I antibody (aCL-β2GPI). Our results strongly support the notion that both prethrombin-1 and fragment-1 on prothrombin molecule are B cell epitopes.
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