We characterized the RNA-containing antigens precipitated by sera from 260 patients with positive antinuclear antibodies. 49 individuals, most of whom had systemic lupus erythematosus or Sjogren's syndrome, possessed antibodies that precipitated the previously identified RNP, Sm, Ro, and La antigens either singly or in combinations. These antigens, which are located on discrete sets of small nuclear or cytoplasmic RNA-protein particles, exhibited a number of antigenic interrelationships. One patient's serum recognized a new particle containing a small RNA which we have called Th; it also precipitated the Ro complexes. Other patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, hepatitis B virus infection, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, myositis, and rheumatoid arthritis had antibodies that precipitated specific subsets of ribosomal RNA and transfer RNA. One patient's serum contained a monoclonal immunoglobulin G that precipitated ribosomes. Most of these antibodies identified antigenic determinants constituted at least in part of protein. The specificity of the proteins bound to particular cellular RNA, probably explains the exquisite precision with which antibodies from rheumatic disease patients discriminate among RNA subsets. Such sera should be useful probes for investigating specific roles that different RNA and RNA-protein complexes play in cellular metabolism.
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