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The patient with systemic lupus erythematosus: overview and pathogenesis 

The patient with systemic lupus erythematosus: overview and pathogenesis
The patient with systemic lupus erythematosus: overview and pathogenesis

Johan van der Vlag

, and Jo H. M. Berden


June 28, 2018: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 30 September 2020

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease with various clinical manifestations. The hallmark of SLE is the presence of antibodies against nuclear constituents, such as double-stranded (ds)DNA, histones, and nucleosomes. Local deposition of antinuclear antibodies in complex with nuclear autoantigens induces serious inflammatory conditions that can affect several tissues and organs, including the kidney.

The levels of antinucleosome and anti-dsDNA antibodies seem to correlate with glomerulonephritis and these autoantibodies can often be detected years before the patient is diagnosed with SLE. Apoptotic debris is present in the extracellular matrix and circulation of patients with SLE due to an aberrant process of apoptosis and/or insufficient clearance of apoptotic cells and apoptotic debris. The non-cleared apoptotic debris in patients with SLE may lead to activation of both the innate (myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells) and adaptive (T and B cells) immune system. In addition to the activation by apoptotic debris and immune complexes, the immune system in SLE may be deregulated at the level of (a) presentation of self-peptides by antigen-presenting cells, (b) selection processes for both B and T cells, and (c) regulatory processes of B- and T-cell responses. Lupus nephritis may be classified in different classes based on histological findings in renal biopsies. The chromatin-containing immune complexes deposit in the capillary filter, most likely due to the interaction of chromatin with the polysaccharide heparan sulphate. A decreased renal expression of the endonuclease DNaseI further contributes to the glomerular persistence of chromatin and the development of glomerulonephritis.

Current treatment of lupus nephritis is not specific and aims to reduce the inflammatory response with general immunosuppressive therapies. However, research has revealed novel potential therapeutic candidates at the level of dendritic cells, B cells, and T cells.

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