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Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are predominantly IgG autoantibodies directed against constituents of primary granules of neutrophils and monocytes’ lysosomes. Although several antigenic targets have been identified, those ANCA directed to proteinase 3 or myeloperoxidase are clinically relevant, whereas the importance of other ANCA remains unknown. Both are strongly associated with small vessel vasculitides, the ANCA-associated vasculitides, which include Wegener’s granulomatosis, microscopic polyangiitis, and Churg-Strauss syndrome, and the localised forms of these diseases (eg, pauci-immune necrotising and crescentic glomerulonephritis). ANCA is a useful serological test to assist in diagnosis of small-vessel vasculitides. 85-95% of patients with Wegener’s granulomatosis, microscopic polyangiitis, and pauci-immune necrotising and crescentic glomerulonephritis have serum ANCA. ANCA directed to either proteinase 3 or myeloperoxidase are clinically relevant, yet the relevance of other ANCA remains unknown. Besides their diagnostic potential, ANCA might be valuable in disease monitoring. In addition, data seem to confirm the long-disputed pathogenic role of these antibodies. There is increasing evidence that myeloperoxidase- ANCA are directly involved in the pathogenesis of necrotizing vasculitis. This is less clear for proteinase 3-ANCA, markers for Wegener’s granulomatosis. With respect to proteinase 3-ANCA, complementary proteinase 3, a peptide translated from the antisense DNA strand of proteinase 3 and homologous to several microbial peptides, may be involved in induction of proteinase 3-antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies.
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