Circulating anti-goblet cell antibody and its corresponding antigen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease were investigated. Antigoblet cell antibody in the serum was examined by immunocytochemistry and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), using a colonic cancer cell line, HT29-18-N2, which differentiates into intestinal goblet cells. The frequencies of anti-goblet cell antibody detected by immunocytochemistry were 14 in 48 patients with ulcerative colitis (29%) and five in 15 patients with Crohn's disease (33%). By ELISA, the frequencies of anti-goblet cell antibody were 38% in ulcerative colitis and 33% in Crohn's disease. This antibody did not relate directly to anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA), although the serum samples positive for anti-goblet cell antibody were commonly positive for ANCA in ulcerative colitis. Immunoprecipitation and SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) study showed that the antibody in the ELISA positive serum samples recognised a >200 kD goblet cell antigen, which remained unchanged after reduction, indicating that it consists of single chain polypeptides. These results suggest that there is a subgroup of inflammatory bowel disease that has circulating anti-goblet cell antibody reactive with a >200 kD antigen. The antibody detected by newly established ELISA will be a disease marker for this group and the identification of the corresponding antigens may be important for the understanding of the underlying immune abnormalities.
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