Peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs) have an important role in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) owing to their ability to generate citrullinated proteins — the hallmark autoantigens of RA. Of the five PAD enzyme isoforms, PAD2 and PAD4 are the most strongly implicated in RA at both genetic and cellular levels, and PAD inhibitors have shown therapeutic efficacy in mouse models of inflammatory arthritis. PAD2 and PAD4 are additionally targeted by autoantibodies in distinct clinical subsets of patients with RA, suggesting anti-PAD antibodies as possible biomarkers for RA diagnosis and prognosis. This Review weighs the evidence that supports a pathogenic role for PAD enzymes in RA as both promoters and targets of the autoimmune response, as well as discussing the mechanistic and therapeutic implications of these findings in the wider context of RA pathogenesis. Understanding the origin and consequences of dysregulated PAD enzyme activity and immune responses against PAD enzymes will be important to fully comprehend the pathogenic mechanisms involved in this disease and for the development of novel strategies to treat and prevent RA.
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