1. In primary biliary cirrhosis, the major M2 autoantigen, reacting with antimitochondrial antibodies in sera from >90% of patients, has been identified as the E2 component of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. However, two recent reports suggest that alternative polypeptides may be major autoantigens.
2. The evidence that a 75 kDa subunit of complex I of the respiratory chain is a major autoantigen (Frostell, Mendel-Hartvig, Nelson, Totterman, Bjorkland & Ragan, Scand. J. Immunol. 1988; 28, 157–65) is refuted. The findings of Frostell et al. can be explained by contamination of complex I with the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, evidence for which is presented here.
3. Inspection of the partial amino acid sequence of an unidentified mitochondrial autoantigen (Muno, Kominami, Ishii, Usui, Saituku, Sakakibara & Namihisa, Hepatology 1990; 11, 16–23) shows that it is the El β-subunit of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, previously identified as a major autoantigen, and not a ‘new’ alternative major autoantigen.
4. These findings substantiate previous work showing that the mitochondrial M2 autoantigens identified so far in primary biliary cirrhosis are all polypeptide components of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex or the other related 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complexes.