RNAP - Clinical: RNA Polymerase III Antibodies, IgG, Serum

Test Catalog

Test Name

Test ID: RNAP    
RNA Polymerase III Antibodies, IgG, Serum

Useful For Suggests clinical disorders or settings where the test may be helpful

Evaluating patients suspected of having systemic sclerosis, when used in conjunction with centromere and Scl70 antibodies


Providing diagnostic and prognostic information in patients with systemic sclerosis

Clinical Information Discusses physiology, pathophysiology, and general clinical aspects, as they relate to a laboratory test

Systemic sclerosis is a multisystem connective tissue (systemic rheumatic) disease characterized by fibroblast dysfunction leading to fibrosis of the skin and internal organs, microvascular injury leading to tissue hypoxia, and an autoimmune response manifested by production of autoantibodies.(1,2) The severity of the disease is highly variable among individual patients. Limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis and diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis have been recognized as distinct subsets, with worse survival for those with the diffuse form.(2) Clinical features of CREST syndrome (calcinosis, Raynaud phenomenon, esophageal dysmotility, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasias) can be seen in both limited cutaneous and diffuse cutaneous forms but, overall, are associated with a better prognosis.(2) Several disease-specific and mutually exclusive autoantibodies have been identified that are helpful in both diagnosis and disease classification. Centromere and topoisomerase I (Scl 70) autoantibodies are associated with limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis and diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis, respectively.(3)


RNA polymerase III is a complex, 16-subunit enzyme directing transcription of small, stable nontranslated RNA genes: tRNAs, 5S rRNA, Alu-RNA and U6 7SK snRNA genes. The immunodominant epitope for autoantibodies with anti-RNA polymerase I/III specificity has been identified on the RNA polymerase-specific subunit RPC155.(4)


Autoantibodies to RNA polymerase III antigen are found in 11% to 23% of patients with systemic sclerosis.(1,4) Systemic sclerosis patients who are positive for RNA polymerase III antibodies form a distinct serologic subgroup and usually do not have any of the other antibodies typically found in systemic sclerosis patients such as anticentromere or anti-Scl70.(1) Numerous studies have shown that systemic sclerosis patients with anti-RNA polymerase III have an increased risk of the diffuse cutaneous form of scleroderma, with a high likelihood of skin involvement and hypertensive renal disease.(1,4)

Reference Values Describes reference intervals and additional information for interpretation of test results. May include intervals based on age and sex when appropriate. Intervals are Mayo-derived, unless otherwise designated. If an interpretive report is provided, the reference value field will state this.

<20.0 U (negative)

20.0-39.9 U (weak positive)

40.0-80.0 U (moderate positive)

>80.0 U (strong positive)

Interpretation Provides information to assist in interpretation of the test results

A positive result supports a possible diagnosis of systemic sclerosis (see Cautions). This autoantibody is strongly associated with diffuse cutaneous scleroderma and with an increased risk of acute renal crisis. 


A negative result indicates no detectable IgG antibodies to RNA polymerase III, but does not rule out the possibility of systemic sclerosis (11%-23% sensitivity).(1,4)

Cautions Discusses conditions that may cause diagnostic confusion, including improper specimen collection and handling, inappropriate test selection, and interfering substances

A positive result indicates the presence of measurable IgG antibodies to RNA polymerase III, but does not unequivocally establish the diagnosis of systemic sclerosis or other autoimmune disease.


The level of RNA polymerase III autoantibodies does not indicate the severity of disease in patients with systemic sclerosis.


The presence of immune complexes or other immunoglobulin aggregates in the patient specimen may cause an increased level of nonspecific binding and produce false-positive results with this assay.

Clinical Reference Recommendations for in-depth reading of a clinical nature

1. Koenig M, Dieude M, Senecal, J-L: Predictive value of antinuclear antibodies: The lessons of the systemic sclerosis autoantibodies. Autoimmun Rev 2008;7(8):588-593

2. Wollheim FA: Classification of systemic sclerosis. Visions and reality. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2005 Oct;44(10):1212-1216

3. Cavazzana I, Ceribelli A, Paolo A, et al: Anti-RNA polymerase III antibodies: A marker of systemic sclerosis with rapid onset and skin thickening progression. Autoimmun Rev 2009;8(7):580-584

4. Kuwana M, Kimura K, Kawakami Y: Identification of an immunodominant epitope on RNA polymerase III recognized by systemic sclerosis sera: application to enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Arthritis Rheum 2002 Oct;46(10):2742-2747