OBJECTIVE--To determine whether antibodies to double stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) have a pathogenic role in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). METHODS--IgG was purified from 17 patients with SLE (median anti-dsDNA titre 1212 IU/ml) and nine healthy controls (median titre 40 IU/ml). Anti-dsDNA depleted polyclonal IgG (median anti-dsDNA titre 17 IU/ml) was also prepared from sera of the 17 patients by affinity chromatography on a DNA cellulose column. Binding to antiendothelial cell antibodies (AECA) and expression of von Willebrand factor (VWF) antigen by cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were studied by flow cytometry. RESULTS--The percentage of HUVECs binding to AECA or expressing VWF was greater for cells incubated with IgG from patients with SLE than for cells incubated with control IgG, though values did not reach statistical significance; nevertheless, HUVECs incubated with IgG from patients expressed a greater mean fluorescence intensity with AECA (p = 0.0001) and greater VWF expression (p = 0.019). Both the fluorescence intensity and percentage of HUVECs binding to AECA or expressing VWF were significantly greater in HUVEC incubated with IgG containing anti-dsDNA than in those incubated with anti-dsDNA depleted IgG. The concentration of VWF in the supernatant was significantly increased in HUVECs incubated with IgG containing anti-dsDNA compared with control IgG or anti-dsDNA depleted IgG. Pretreatment of HUVECs with native DNA before incubation with IgG from lupus patients did not increase binding to AECA, or expression or release of VWF. CONCLUSIONS--Our study provides in vitro evidence that antibodies to DNA have a pathogenic role in the induction of inflammatory injury of the vascular endothelium in SLE.
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