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Is protein citrullination by nanomaterials a risk factor for inducing autoimmune reactions?


Since 2012 it is known that proteins in cells or laboratory animals change in a specific way if they are exposed to nanoparticles. This process is called citrullination. Under certain circumstances, antibodies directed against these altered proteins develop. Since these antibodies have been found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) it is assumed that there is a correlation between citrullination of proteins, the resulting antibodies, and processes that lead to auto-immune diseases such as RA. From this assumption it is speculated that exposure to nanomaterials is a risk factor for the development of autoimmune diseases such as RA. In a literature review by the RIVM, this link has however not been found. Indeed, antibodies against citrullinated proteins have never been measured after exposure to nanomaterials. In addition, the mere presence of antibodies against citrullinated proteins is insufficient to induce arthritis in laboratory animals. Thus, these studies do not provide a direct causal link between exposure to nanomaterials and RA. To gain more insight into these complex processes, some follow-up studies are recommended. Firstly, this involves the measurement of antibodies against citrullinated proteins in laboratory animals exposed to nanomaterials. Secondly, it is of importance to investigate the effect of the nano-materials in an animal model for RA on the development of joint inflammation. Is arthritis aggravated, does it develop earlier or are more animals affected?

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