Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic auto-immune disease principally effecting synovial joints. RA is characterized by immune cell infiltration in the joint. The presence of autoantibodies is a hallmark for the disease, among these are rheumatoid factor and antibodies against post-translational modified proteins like citrullination (ACPA) and carbamylation (anti-CarP antibodies). These autoantibodies may form immune complexes in the joint, leading to the attraction of immune cells. Based on the presence of these autoantibodies, RA patients can be subdivided in autoantibody positive and negative disease. Both subsets can be associated with genetic and environmental risk factors for RA, like the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) allele and smoking. Autoantibodies can already be detected years before disease onset in a subgroup of patients and at symptom onset a broad isotype spectrum is observed. This suggests that various events occur prior to the development of RA in which the first autoantibodies develop in predisposed individuals. Therefore, the presence of these autoantibodies can be useful in predicting future RA patients. Research on the characteristics and effector function of these autoantibodies is ongoing and will give more knowledge in the inflammatory responses underlying RA. This will give insight in the pathogenic role of autoantibodies in RA. Recent data are suggestive of a role for mucosal surfaces in the development of auto-immune responses associated with (the development of) RA. In conclusion, investigating the potential pathogenic effector functions of autoantibody isotypes and their molecular- and physicochemical-compositions might improve understanding of the disease origin and its underlying immunological processes. This may lead to the development of new therapeutic targets and strategies.