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Widely Used Commercial ELISA Does Not Detect Precursor of Haptoglobin2, but Recognizes Properdin as a Potential Second Member of the Zonulin Family

By Lucas Scheffler, Alyce Crane, Henrike Heyne, Anke Tönjes, Dorit Schleinitz, Christian H. Ihling, Michael Stumvoll, Rachel Freire, Maria Fiorentino, Alessio Fasano, Peter Kovacs, John T. Heiker

Posted 30 Jun 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/157578 (published DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2018.00022)

Background: There is increasing evidence for the role of impaired intestinal permeability in obesity and associated metabolic diseases. Zonulin is an established serum marker for intestinal permeability and identical to pre-haptoglobin2. Here, we aimed to investigate the relationship between circulating zonulin and metabolic traits related to obesity. Methods: Serum zonulin was measured by using a widely used commercial ELISA kit in 376 subjects from the metabolically well-characterized cohort of Sorbs from Germany. In addition, haptoglobin genotype was determined in DNA samples from all study subjects. Results: As zonulin concentrations did not correlate to the haptoglobin genotypes, we investigated the specificity of the zonulin ELISA assay using antibody capture experiments, mass spectrometry, and Western blot analysis. Using serum samples that gave the highest or lowest ELISA signals, we detected several proteins that are likely to be captured by the antibody in the present kit. However, none of these proteins corresponds to pre-haptoglobin2. We used increasing concentrations of recombinant pre-haptoglobin2 and complement C3 as one of the representative captured proteins and the ELISA kit did not detect either. Western blot analysis using both the polyclonal antibodies used in this kit and monoclonal antibodies rose against zonulin showed a similar protein recognition pattern but with different intensity of detection. The protein(s) measured using the ELISA kit was (were) significantly increased in patients with diabetes and obesity and correlated strongly with markers of the lipid and glucose metabolism. Combining mass spectrometry and Western blot analysis using the polyclonal antibodies used in the ELISA kit, we identified properdin as another member of the zonulin family. Conclusion: Our study suggests that the zonulin ELISA does not recognize pre-haptoglobin2, rather structural (and possibly functional) analog proteins belonging to the mannose-associated serine protease family, with properdin being the most likely possible candidate.

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