The recent identification of tissue transglutaminase (tTG) as the autoantigen for celiac disease-associated anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA) has allowed the use of rapid immunoassay to detect the presence of autoantibodies, anti-tTG, in the serum of patients. In this study, we examined the prevalence of IgG or IgA anti-tTG in sera from patients with elevated levels of IgM rheumatoid factors, which are autoantibodies reactive with the Fc portion of IgG. We report here on four cases of anti-tTG positivity for patients with elevated IgM rheumatoid factor (RF) without evidence of celiac sprue. The study population consisted of 65 patients (26 men, 39 women; mean age, 49 years; range 4 - 92 years) with elevated RF (>20 U/ml ), and 23 healthy subjects (12 men, 11 women; mean age, 46 years; range, 21 - 54 years). IgG and IgA anti- tTG levels were detected using a commercially available ELISA kit (Immuno-Biological Laboratories, Germany). Out of 65 patients, one (1.5%) and three (4.6%) patients were positive for IgG and IgA anti-tTG antibodies, respectively, and this was a higher frequency than occurred in healthy subjects (0/23). The clinical features of the four cases positive for IgG or IgA anti-tTG were as follows: The first case (female, 63 yrs) positive for IgA anti-tTG antibody suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, type II diabetes mellitus, iron deficiency anemia and gastric indigestion without symptoms of malabsorption. She denied any gluten sensitivity on her diet. Her esophagogastroduodenoscopic biopsy showed mucosal atrophy with no elongated crypts or infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lamina propria. The remaining three cases positive for anti-tTG antibodies had interstitial pneumonia, a herniated lumbar disc, and mild scoliosis, respectively. They all denied any malabsorption symptoms or gluten sensitivity. Jejunal biopsy could not be performed in all four cases.
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