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1.  Urinary monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and transforming growth factor-β in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Indian Journal of Nephrology  2012;22(1):5-12.
The purpose of this investigation was to assess the correlation of two biomarkers with the occurrence of renal flares in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Urine levels of monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1) and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) were measured at baseline, and at two and four months in five groups of patients: 25 lupus nephritis patients with active disease (active LN), 10 lupus nephritis patients with SLE in remission (remission LN), 25 patients with clinical active SLE and without nephritis (active NLN), 10 patients without nephritis with SLE in remission (remission NLN) and 10 healthy controls. We used repeated measurement and ANOVA with Duncan's post hoc to analyze the data; the urine level of the two proteins could distinguish the groups based on the existence of lupus nephritis and/or activity of SLE disease. Furthermore we performed receiver operating curve analysis to identify a cutoff point with a good sensitivity and specificity to diagnose lupus nephritis with either one of the urine proteins. Finally the samples from active LN were grouped according to whether they were Class IV or other classes. Baseline urinary MCP-1, but not TGF-β, was significantly different between the classes. Further investigation into the use of these cytokines in a prospective study is needed to determine their capacity as diagnostic tools for renal flares.
PMCID: PMC3263065  PMID: 22279336
Lupus nephritis; monocyte chemotactic protein-1; systemic lupus erythematosus; transforming growth factor beta
2.  Hepcidin Expression by Human Monocytes in Response to Adhesion and Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2010;1800(12):1262-1267.
A previous urine proteomic analysis from our laboratory suggested that hepcidin may be a biomarker for lupus nephritis flare. Immunohistochemical staining of kidney biopsies from lupus patients showed that hepcidin was expressed by infiltrating renal leukocytes. Here we investigated whether inflammatory cytokines relevant to the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis and other glomerular diseases regulate hepcidin expression by human monocytes.
Human CD14+ monocytes were incubated with interferon alpha (IFNα), interferon gamma (IFNγ), interleukin-6 (IL6), interleukin-1 beta (IL1β), monocyte chemotactic factor-1 (MCP1), or tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα). Hepcidin expression was examined by real-time PCR and enzyme immunoassay.
Monocyte hepcidin mRNA increased during adherence to the tissue culture wells, reaching a level 150-fold higher than baseline within 12 hours of plating. After accounting for the effects of adhesion, monocytes showed time and dose-dependent up-regulation of hepcidin mRNA upon treatment with IFNα or IL6. One hour of incubation with IFNα or IL6 increased hepcidin mRNA 20 and 80-fold respectively; by 24 hours the mRNA remained 5 and 2.4-fold higher than baseline. IL1β, IFNγ, and MCP-1 did not affect monocyte hepcidin expression. TNFα inhibited hepcidin induction by IL6 in monocytes by 44%. After 24 hours of treatment with IFNα or IL6, immunoreactive hepcidin production by monocytes increased 3 and 2.6-fold respectively.
Human monocytes produce hepcidin in response to adhesion and the pro-inflammatory cytokines IFNα and IL6.
General Significance
The appearance of hepcidin in the kidneys or urine during glomerular diseases may be from infiltrating monocytes induced to express hepcidin by adherence and exposure to pro-inflammatory cytokines found in the renal milieu.
PMCID: PMC2967603  PMID: 20801192
Hepcidin; Interferon Alpha; Human Monocytes; Nephritis
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(7):2031-2037.
The published criteria for the proteinuria increase that constitutes a proteinuric flare in lupus glomerulonephritis (SLE GN) vary widely, likely because they are largely based on expert opinion. Ideally, the threshold for proteinuric flare should be set sufficiently high so that spontaneous variation in proteinuria does not likely explain the increase, but not so high that the patient is needlessly exposed to prolonged heavy proteinuria before a flare is declared and therapy is increased. Here we describe an evidence-based approach to setting the threshold for proteinuric flare based on quantifying the spontaneous variation in urine protein/creatinine (P/C) ratio of SLE GN patients who are not experiencing SLE flare.
SLE GN patients (N = 71) followed in the Ohio SLE Study (OSS) were tested at pre-specified bimonthly intervals within windows of ± 1 week, median follow-up > 44 mo, visit compliance > 90%. To assess spontaneous P/C ratio variation under no-flare conditions, we excluded P/C ratios measured within ± 4 month of renal flare.
For those with mean no-flare P/C ratios ≤ 0.5, the published flare thresholds are set well above the 99% confidence interval (CI) of the no-flare P/C ratios. The opposite is seen in those with patients whose mean no-flare P/C ratios ≥ 1.0.
Current thresholds for proteinuric flare appear to be set either too high or too low. A randomized trial would be needed to test whether re-setting the thresholds would result in faster remission, less therapy, and less chronic kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC3117977  PMID: 21400484
4.  Urinary TWEAK as a biomarker of lupus nephritis: a multicenter cohort study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(5):R143.
TNF-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) has been implicated as a mediator of chronic inflammatory processes via prolonged activation of the NF-κB pathway in several tissues, including the kidney. Evidence for the importance of TWEAK in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis (LN) has been recently introduced. Thus, TWEAK levels may serve as an indication of LN presence and activity.
Multicenter cohorts of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and controls were recruited for cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of urinary TWEAK (uTWEAK) and/or serum TWEAK (sTWEAK) levels as potential biomarkers of LN. The performance of TWEAK as a biomarker for nephritis was compared with routinely used laboratory tests in lupus patients, including anti-double stranded DNA antibodies and levels of C3 and C4.
uTWEAK levels were significantly higher in LN patients than in non-LN SLE patients and other disease control groups (P = 0.039). Furthermore, uTWEAK was better at distinguishing between LN and non-LN SLE patients than anti-DNA antibodies and complement levels, while high uTWEAK levels predicted LN in SLE patients with an odds ratio of 7.36 (95% confidence interval = 2.25 to 24.07; P = 0.001). uTWEAK levels peaked during LN flares, and were significantly higher during the flare than at 4 and 6 months prior to or following the flare event. A linear mixed-effects model showed a significant association between uTWEAK levels in SLE patients and their disease activity over time (P = 0.008). sTWEAK levels, however, were not found to correlate with the presence of LN or the degree of nephritis activity.
High uTWEAK levels are indicative of LN, as opposed to non-LN SLE and other healthy and disease control populations, and reflect renal disease activity in longitudinal follow-up. Thus, our study further supports a role for TWEAK in the pathogenesis of LN, and provides strong evidence for uTWEAK as a candidate clinical biomarker for LN.
PMCID: PMC2787265  PMID: 19785730
5.  Urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin as a novel biomarker for disease activity in lupus nephritis 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2010;49(5):960-971.
Objectives. Clinical and laboratory markers in current use have limited specificity and sensitivity for predicting the development of renal disease in lupus patients. In this longitudinal study, we investigated whether urinary neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (uNGAL) predicts active nephritis and renal flares in lupus patients with and without a history of biopsy-proven lupus nephritis.
Methods. Renal disease activity and flare status was determined by SLEDAI and BILAG scores. Random effects models were used to determine whether uNGAL was a significant predictor for renal disease activity in SLE patients, and for renal flares in patients with established nephritis. To assess the predictive performance of uNGAL, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were constructed using the previous visit’s uNGAL level. These curves were then compared with curves constructed with currently used biomarkers. Cut-offs determined by ROC curves were tested in an independent validation cohort.
Results. uNGAL was found to be a significant predictor of renal disease activity in all SLE patients, and a significant predictor for flare in patients with a history of biopsy-proven nephritis, in multivariate models adjusting for age, race, sex and anti-double-stranded (ds)DNA antibody titres. As a predictor of renal flare in patients with biopsy-proven nephritis, uNGAL outperformed anti-dsDNA antibody titres. These results were confirmed in an independent validation cohort.
Conclusions. uNGAL predicts renal flare in patients with a history of biopsy-proven nephritis with high sensitivity and specificity. Furthermore, uNGAL is a more sensitive and specific forecaster of renal flare in patients with a history of lupus nephritis than anti-dsDNA antibody titres.
PMCID: PMC2853702  PMID: 20144927
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Lupus nephritis; Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index; British Isles Lupus Assessment Group; Biomarkers
6.  The complex nature of serum C3 and C4 as biomarkers of lupus renal flare 
Lupus  2010;19(11):1272-1280.
To assess the relationship between serum C3 or C4 levels and lupus renal flare, C3 and C4 levels were measured bimonthly in 71 lupus nephritis patients for a mean of 35 months, during which time 70 renal flares were identified. Comparing baseline, pre-flare, and at-flare values indicated that neither C3 nor C4 levels decreased pre-flare, but both decreased on average significantly at flare. However, sensitivity/specificity for C3 (75%/71%) and C4 (48%/71%) were low. To account for other influencing factors, multiple regression was performed that included bimonthly values of C-reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and genotype data on C3 (S/F), CRP (1846G > A), and the complement regulator factor H (Y402H). This analysis revealed that reduced levels of C4, but not C3, were independently associated with the two-month pre-flare period. Conversely, reduced levels of C3, but not C4, were independently associated with the flare visit. Significant pro-flare interactions included low C3 levels with the factor H 402HH-encoding genotype, and low CRP levels with the C3 F allele. Together these data suggest that C4 activation is critical for initiating renal flare while C3 activation is involved in the actual tissue damage, and that these effects are influenced by genetic variability in complement activation and regulation.
PMCID: PMC3086056  PMID: 20605879
C3; C4; lupus nephritis; renal flare
7.  Clinical Characteristics and Management of Late Urinary Symptom Flare Following Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer 
Frontiers in Oncology  2014;4:122.
Purpose: Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is increasingly utilized as primary treatment for clinically localized prostate cancer. While acute post-SBRT urinary symptoms are well recognized, the late genitourinary toxicity of SBRT has not been fully described. Here, we characterize the clinical features of late urinary symptom flare and recommend conservative symptom management approaches that may alleviate the associated bother.
Methods: Between February 2008 and August 2011, 216 men with clinically localized prostate cancer were treated definitively with SBRT at Georgetown University Hospital. Treatment was delivered using the CyberKnife with doses of 35–36.25 Gy in five fractions. The prevalence of each of five Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) graded urinary toxicities was assessed at each follow-up visit. Medication usage was documented at each visit. Patient-reported urinary symptoms were assessed using the American Urological Association (AUA) symptom score and the Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite (EPIC)-26 at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months. Late urinary symptom flare was defined as an increase in the AUA symptom score of ≥5 points above baseline with a degree of severity in the moderate to severe range (AUA symptom score ≥15). The relationship between the occurrence of flare and pre-treatment characteristics were examined.
Results: For all patients, the AUA symptom score spiked transiently at 1 month post-SBRT. Of the 216 patients, 29 (13.4%) experienced a second transient increase in the AUA symptom score that met the criteria for late urinary symptom flare. Among flare patients, the median age was 66 years compared to 70 for those without flare (p = 0.007). In patients who experienced flare, CTCAE urinary toxicities including dysuria, frequency/urgency, and retention peaked at 9–18 months, and alpha-antagonist utilization increased at 1 month post-treatment, rose sharply at 12 months post-treatment, and peaked at 18 months (85%) before decreasing at 24 months. The EPIC urinary summary score of flare patients declined transiently at 1 month and experienced a second, more protracted decline between 6 and 18 months before returning to near baseline at 2-year post-SBRT. Statistically and clinically significant increases in patient-reported frequency, weak stream, and dysuria were seen at 12 months post-SBRT. Among flare patients, 42.9% felt that urination was a moderate to big problem at 12 months following SBRT.
Conclusion: In this study, we characterize late urinary symptom flare following SBRT. Late urinary symptom flare is a constellation of symptoms including urinary frequency/urgency, weak stream, and dysuria that transiently occurs 6–18 months post-SBRT. Provision of appropriate anticipatory counseling and the maintenance of prophylactic alpha-antagonists may limit the bother associated with this syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4033266  PMID: 24904833
prostate cancer; SBRT; CyberKnife; EPIC; AUA symptom score; genitourinary toxicity; late urinary symptom flare; bother
8.  Preliminary Criteria for Global Flares in Childhood-Onset Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis care & research  2011;63(9):1213-1223.
To develop widely acceptable preliminary criteria of global flare for childhood-onset SLE (cSLE).
Pediatric rheumatologists (n=138) rated a total of 358 unique patient profiles (PP) with information about the cSLE flare descriptors (cSLE-FD) from two consecutive visits: patient global assessment of well-being, physician global assessment of disease activity (MD-global), health-related quality of life, anti-dsDNA antibodies, disease activity index score, protein/creatinine (P/C) ratio, complement levels and ESR. Based on 2996 rater responses about the course of cSLE (baseline vs. follow-up) the accuracy (sensitivity, specificity, area under the receiver operating characteristic curve) of candidate flare criteria was assessed. An international consensus conference was held to rank these candidate flare criteria as per the ACR-recommendations for the development and validation of criteria sets.
The highest ranked candidate criteria considered absolute changes (Δ) of the SLEDAI or BILAG, MD-global, P/C ratio, and ESR; Flare scores can be calculated [0.5 × ΔSLEDAI + 0.45 × ΔP/C ratio + 0.5 × ΔMD-global + 0.02 × ΔESR], where values ≥ 1.04 are reflective of a flare. Similarly, BILAG-based flare scores [0.4 × ΔBILAG + 0.65 × ΔP/C ratio + 0.5 × ΔMD-global + 0.02 × ΔESR] of ≥ 1.15 were diagnostic of a flare. Flare scores increase with flare severity.
Consensus has been reached on preliminary criteria for global flares in cSLE. Further validation studies are needed to confirm the usefulness of the cSLE flare criteria in research and for clinical care.
PMCID: PMC3167979  PMID: 21618452
lupus; childhood-onset SLE; SLE; pediatric SLE; juvenile SLE; flare; criteria; children; cSLE
9.  Pregnancy in past or present lupus nephritis: a study of 32 pregnancies from a single centre 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2001;60(6):599-604.
OBJECTIVE—To study maternal and fetal outcome in women with past or present histologically proven systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) nephritis.
METHOD—Retrospective study of 32 pregnancies in 22 women with past or present histologically proven SLE nephritis in a single French centre.
RESULTS—Pregnancy (25 planned and 7 not planned) occurred in a mean (SD) of 8 (5) years after SLE diagnosis and 6 (4) years after renal disease onset. Seven occurred in women with antiphospholipid syndrome. At pregnancy onset, all but one woman had creatininaemia below 100 µmol/l, five had proteinuria >0.5 g/day, none had hypertension. Twelve pregnancies occurred in women previously treated with immunosuppressant drugs. Treatment comprised prednisone (n=31), hydroxychloroquine (n=11), aspirin (n=22), heparin (n=12), and azathioprine in one patient with steroid resistant nephrotic syndrome disclosing SLE. No therapeutic abortion was done. During pregnancy or the postpartum period, or both, proteinuria >0.5 g/day occurred in 10 women (five related to pre-eclampsia, four to renal flare, one to stable nephrotic syndrome). One flare consisted of mild arthralgias. Pregnancy outcome comprised one feto-maternal death in SLE disclosed by pregnancy, five embryonic losses, two fetal deaths, and 18 premature (one neonatal death) and six full term births. No criterion appeared to influence fetal survival significantly. At long term, one patient died during an SLE flare, three women had renal relapses. At the last visit, all had creatininaemia below 100 µmol/l except one woman with creatinine level 115 µmol/l, nine had proteinuria >0.5 g/day, and one was treated for hypertension.
CONCLUSION—Pregnancy need not be discouraged in women with a history of SLE nephritis with normal or mildly impaired renal function. Deterioration of renal function rarely occurs. However, these pregnancies are at high risk of pre-eclampsia and prematurity.

PMCID: PMC1753674  PMID: 11350849
10.  sIL7R concentrations in the serum reflect disease activity in the lupus kidney 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2014;1(1):e000036.
Evaluation of disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) nephritis is a challenge, and repeated renal biopsies are usually needed in order to confirm a suspicion of flare. In a previous cross-sectional study, we reported that serum soluble form of the interleukin-7 receptor (sIL7R) levels is strongly associated with nephritis in SLE patients. In the present study, we wanted to confirm the association between changes in serum sIL7R concentrations and renal disease activity in a large longitudinal cohort of SLE nephritis patients.
Sera were harvested longitudinally in 105 SLE nephritis patients. Serum sIL7R cut-off value for the detection of SLE nephritis activity was determined as the mean sIL7R concentration in non-nephritis SLE patients + 2 SDs using data collected in our previous study. Patients with glomerular filtration rate (GFR) <60 mL/min/1.73 m2 (n=17) were excluded from the study due to persistently elevated serum sIL7R values.
Serum sIL7R concentrations above the renal cut-off value were observed in 25 (out of 88) patients with a normal GFR. These patients had significantly higher serum double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) Ab and urinary protein to creatinine (UPC) ratio. Strikingly, 12 of them developed a renal British Isles Lupus Assessment Group index (BILAG) A within the next 3 months, while this was only the case in four out of the 63 other patients (p<0.0001). The test had 75.0% sensitivity and 81.9% specificity for the detection of a renal BILAG A. Combination of serum sIL7R with any of the classical tests (anti-dsDNA Ab titres, UPC ratio, serum C3) resulted in an increased specificity for the detection of a renal flare. Administration of immunosuppressive therapy resulted in a significant decrease in serum sIL7R concentrations.
Serum sIL7R is a sensitive and specific marker of renal disease activity in SLE. Elevated serum sIL7R values in SLE patients are associated with or predict the occurrence of an SLE nephritis flare.
PMCID: PMC4225729  PMID: 25396066
Lupus Nephritis; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Disease Activity
11.  Biomarkers for Lupus Nephritis: A Critical Appraisal 
Kidney disease is one of the most serious manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Despite the improvement in the medical care of SLE in the past two decades, the prognosis of lupus nephritis remains unsatisfactory. Besides exploring more effective but less toxic treatment modalities that will further improve the remission rate, early detection and treatment of renal activity may spare patients from intensive immunosuppressive therapies and reduce renal damage. Conventional clinical parameters such as creatinine clearance, proteinuria, urine sediments, anti-dsDNA, and complement levels are not sensitive or specific enough for detecting ongoing disease activity in the lupus kidneys and early relapse of nephritis. Thus, novel biomarkers are necessary to enhance the diagnostic accuracy and sensitivity of lupus renal disease, prognostic stratification, monitoring of treatment response, and detection of early renal flares. This paper reviews promising biomarkers that have recently been evaluated in longitudinal studies of lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2857808  PMID: 20414362
12.  Azathioprine versus mycophenolate mofetil for long-term immunosuppression in lupus nephritis: results from the MAINTAIN Nephritis Trial 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(12):2083-2089.
Long-term immunosuppressive treatment does not efficiently prevent relapses of lupus nephritis (LN). This investigator-initiated randomised trial tested whether mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) was superior to azathioprine (AZA) as maintenance treatment.
A total of 105 patients with lupus with proliferative LN were included. All received three daily intravenous pulses of 750 mg methylprednisolone, followed by oral glucocorticoids and six fortnightly cyclophosphamide intravenous pulses of 500 mg. Based on randomisation performed at baseline, AZA (target dose: 2 mg/kg/day) or MMF (target dose: 2 g/day) was given at week 12. Analyses were by intent to treat. Time to renal flare was the primary end point. Mean (SD) follow-up of the intent-to-treat population was 48 (14) months.
The baseline clinical, biological and pathological characteristics of patients allocated to AZA or MMF did not differ. Renal flares were observed in 13 (25%) AZA-treated and 10 (19%) MMF-treated patients. Time to renal flare, to severe systemic flare, to benign flare and to renal remission did not statistically differ. Over a 3-year period, 24 h proteinuria, serum creatinine, serum albumin, serum C3, haemoglobin and global disease activity scores improved similarly in both groups. Doubling of serum creatinine occurred in four AZA-treated and three MMF-treated patients. Adverse events did not differ between the groups except for haematological cytopenias, which were statistically more frequent in the AZA group (p=0.03) but led only one patient to drop out.
Fewer renal flares were observed in patients receiving MMF but the difference did not reach statistical significance.
PMCID: PMC3002764  PMID: 20833738
13.  Urine Proteome Analysis in Murine Nephrotoxic Serum Nephritis 
American Journal of Nephrology  2009;30(5):450-458.
Urine contains serum proteins filtered by the glomerulus or secreted by the renal tubules and proteins produced locally by the urinary tract. Proteomic analysis of urine holds the potential as a noninvasive means of studying or monitoring disease activity. In mice, large concentrations of albumin and lipocalins have complicated the ability to identify urinary biomarkers in disease models.
Passive nephrotoxic serum nephritis was induced in mice. Urine proteins were identified and quantified by iTRAQ and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Results were compared to Western blotting and multiplex immunoassays.
Large concentrations of major urinary proteins dominate the urine proteome of mice even in the context of acute nephritis. Increased proteinuria caused by nephrotoxic serum nephritis is transient and includes increased albumin excretion. There were no alterations in chemokine excretion. Altered hepcidin excretion was identified, most likely reflecting local production and renal retention.
Proteomic analysis of mouse urine remains challenging due to the abundance of a limited subset of proteins. iTRAQ analysis does not circumvent these challenges, but can provide information on post-translational processing of some proteins. Hepcidin is identified as a potential urinary marker of nephritis and its role in disease pathogenesis warrants further study.
PMCID: PMC3712807  PMID: 19776558
Glomerulonephritis; Hepcidin; IP-10; iTRAQ; Nephrotoxic serum; Proteomics
14.  Serum levels of autoantibodies against C-reactive protein correlate with renal disease activity and response to therapy in lupus nephritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(6):R188.
Serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) seldom reflect disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We have previously shown that autoantibodies against neo-epitopes of CRP often occur in SLE, but that this does not explain the modest CRP response seen in flares. However, we have repeatedly found that anti-CRP levels parallel lupus disease activity, with highest levels in patients with renal involvement; thus, we aimed to study anti-CRP in a material of well-characterized lupus nephritis patients.
Thirty-eight patients with lupus nephritis were included. Treatment with corticosteroids combined with cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil or rituximab was started after baseline kidney biopsy. A second biopsy was taken after ≥ 6 months. Serum creatinine, cystatin C, complement, anti-dsDNA, anti-CRP and urinalysis were done on both occasions. Biopsies were evaluated regarding World Health Organisation (WHO) class and indices of activity and chronicity. Renal disease activity was estimated using the British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) index.
At baseline, 34/38 patients had renal BILAG-A; 4/38 had BILAG-B. Baseline biopsies showed WHO class III (n = 8), IV (n = 19), III to IV/V (n = 3) or V (n = 8) nephritis. Seventeen out of 38 patients were anti-CRP-positive at baseline, and six at follow-up. Overall, anti-CRP levels had dropped at follow-up (P < 0.0001) and anti-CRP levels correlated with renal BILAG (r = 0.29, P = 0.012). A positive anti-CRP test at baseline was superior to anti-dsDNA and C1q in predicting poor response to therapy as judged by renal BILAG. Baseline anti-CRP levels correlated with renal biopsy activity (r = 0.33, P = 0.045), but not with chronicity index. Anti-CRP levels were positively correlated with anti-dsDNA (fluorescence-enhanced immunoassay: r = 0.63, P = 0.0003; Crithidia luciliae immunofluorescence microscopy test: r = 0.44, P < 0.0001), and inversely with C3 (r = 0.35, P = 0.007) and C4 (r = 0.29, P = 0.02), but not with C1q (r = 0.14, P = 0.24). No associations with urinary components, creatinine, cystatin C or the glomerular filtration rate were found.
In the present study, we demonstrate a statistically significant correlation between anti-CRP levels and histopathological activity in lupus nephritis, whereas a baseline positive anti-CRP test predicted poor response to therapy. Our data also confirm previous findings of associations between anti-CRP and disease activity. This indicates that anti-CRP could be helpful to assess disease activity and response to therapy in SLE nephritis, and highlights the hypothesis of a pathogenetic role for anti-CRP antibodies in lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3003497  PMID: 20003354
15.  Role of serum anti-C1q antibodies as a biomarker for nephritis activity in pediatric and adolescent Egyptian female patients with SLE 
To evaluate serum anti-C1q antibodies as a biomarker of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) flare and as a proposed noninvasive alternative to renal biopsy which is still the “gold standard” to determine renal activity in SLE.
Serum anti-C1q antibodies were measured in our patients (all were females), they were followed at the nephrology and pediatric nephrology units at the Faculties of Medicine of Cairo University and Misr University for science and technology (MUST). Our study included 120 patients in the pediatric and adolescent age group and they were categorized into three groups with (mean ± SD of 16.7 ± 3, 16.1 ± 2, 15.9 ± 3) respectively: Group 1 including 40 patients with SLE and active lupus nephritis; Group 2 including 40 patients with SLE and without active lupus nephritis, but with some extra renal activity mainly arthritis; and Group 3 including 40 healthy subjects.
Anti-C1q antibodies were found to be significantly higher in patients with active lupus nephritis than those without active nephritis than control individuals with a median (range) of [27.5 (14 – 83), 9 (2.5 – 30), 7 (2 – 13)] respectively. In those with active lupus nephritis, anti-C1q was found to correlate significantly with other parameters assessing lupus nephritis activity like C3 (r = -0.33, p < 0.04), C4 (r = -0.32, p < 0.044), daily urinary protein excretion (r = 0.32, p < 0.036), renal SLEDAI (r = 0.64, p < 0.001), and activity index (r = 0.71, p < 0.001).
Anti-C1q antibodies can be used as a considerable marker for LN activity in that age group with 97.5% sensitivity and 65% specificity with the cutoff level 12 U/l. These levels are clearly higher than those for traditional markers of disease activity such as C3/C4 consumption and anti-dsDNA.
PMCID: PMC3581052  PMID: 23480832
anti-C1q antibodies; anti-dsDNA; C3; C4; ELISA; juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus; lupus nephritis; renal SLEDAI; urinary proteins
16.  Towards the Development of Criteria for Global Flares in Juvenile Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis care & research  2010;62(6):811-820.
To develop a definition of global flare in jSLE and derive candidate criteria for measuring jSLE flares.
Pediatric rheumatologists answered two Delphi questionnaires to achieve consensus on a common definition of jSLE flare and identify variables for use in candidate flare criteria. The diagnostic accuracy of these candidate flare criteria was tested with data from jSLE patients (n=98; 623 visits total). Physician-rated change in the jSLE course (worsening yes/no) between visits served as the criterion standard.
There was 96% consensus that a “a flare is a measurable worsening of jSLE disease activity in at least one organ system, involving new or worse signs of disease that may be accompanied by new or worse SLE symptoms. Depending on the severity of the flare, more intensive therapy may be required”. Variables suggested for use in flare criteria were: physician-rated disease activity (V1), patient well-being, protein:creatinine ratio, validated disease activity index (V2), Child Health Questionnaire physical summary score (V3), anti-dsDNA antibodies, ESR, and complement levels. Using multiple logistic regression, several candidate flare criteria were derived with area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) as high as 0.92 (sensitivity≥ 85%; specificity≥ 85%); CART analysis suggested that V1, V2 and V3 suffice to identify jSLE flares (AUC = 0.81; sensitivity = 64%; specificity = 86%).
Consensus about a definition of global disease flare with jSLE has been obtained and promising candidate flare criteria have been developed. These will need further assessment of their ease-of-use and accuracy in prospective study.
PMCID: PMC3049164  PMID: 20535792
jSLE; cSLE; children; flare criteria; flare; lupus
17.  Evidence that abnormally large seasonal declines in vitamin D status may trigger SLE flare in non-African Americans 
Lupus  2012;21(8):10.1177/0961203312439640.
Cross-sectional studies have shown that low vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D)) is associated with increased systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) activity. This study is the first to assess the temporal relationship between 25(OH)D levels and onset of SLE flare. This assessment was made possible because of the specimen bank and database of the Ohio SLE Study (OSS), a longitudinal study of frequently relapsing SLE that involved regular bimonthly patient follow-up. We identified for this study 82 flares from 46 patients that were separated by at least 8 months from previous flares. Serum 25(OH)D levels were measured at 4 and 2 months before flare, and at the time of flare (a flare interval). We found that for flares occurring during low daylight months (LDM, Oct-Mar), 25(OH)D levels were decreased at the time of flare, but only in non-African American (non-AA) patients (32% decrease at flare, compared to 4 months prior, p < 0.001). To control for seasonal effects, we also measured 25(OH)D levels in the LDM “no-flare” intervals, which were intervals that matched to the same calendar months of the patients’ LDM flare intervals, but that didn’t end in flare (n = 24). For these matches, a significant decrease occurred in 25(OH)D levels during the flare intervals (18.1% decrease, p < 0.001), but not during the matching no-flare intervals (6.2% decrease, p = 0.411). For flares occurring during high daylight months (HDM), 25(OH)D levels changed only in non-AA patients, increasing slightly (5.6%, p = 0.010). Analysis of flare rates for the entire OSS cohort (n = 201 flares) revealed a tendency for higher flare rates during LDM compared to HDM, but again only in non-AA patients (p = 0.060). Flare rates were lower during HDM for non-AA patients compared to AA patients (p = 0.028). In conclusion, in non-AA SLE patients, unusually large declines in 25(OH)D during LDM may be mechanistically related to SLE flare, whereas relatively high 25(OH)D levels during HDM may protect against flare.
PMCID: PMC3839052  PMID: 22433915
Vitamin D; systemic lupus erythematosus; disease flare
18.  Safety and immunogenicity of the quadrivalent HPV vaccine in female Systemic Lupus Erythematosus patients aged 12 to 26 years 
Women with SLE have higher rates of persistent human papilloma virus (HPV) infections and precancerous lesions than healthy women. HPV vaccine is safe and effective in healthy females aged 9–26 years. There are limited data on the safety and immunogenicity of HPV vaccine in females with SLE, and none in adolescents with SLE. Our study evaluates the safety and immunogenicity of recombinant quadrivalent HPV vaccine, Gardasil, in adolescents and young women with SLE.
This is a prospective, open-label study. Exclusion criteria included disease exacerbation within past 30 days; rituximab or cyclophosphamide within 6 months; pregnancy. Vaccine was administered at months 0, 2, and 6. Physical examination, SLEDAI scores and laboratory studies were performed at months 0, 2, 4, 6 and 7. Each patient’s SLEDAI scores and laboratory profile in the year prior to vaccine administration were used as controls for that patient. Primary outcome measures were change in SLEDAI and mean HPV antibody titers.
27 patients, 12 to 26 years, were enrolled; 20 completed the study. Nine had mild/moderate lupus flares. Mean SLEDAI scores decreased from 6.14 pre-vaccination to 4.49 post-vaccination (p = 0.01). Of 12 patients with lupus nephritis, two experienced worsening renal function during/after the study and progressed to renal failure within 18 months of the study. Both had Class IV lupus nephritis with high chronicity scores (≥ 8) on renal biopsies performed within one year prior to study entry. Seropositivity post-vaccine was >94% for HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18.
Quadrivalent HPV vaccine seems generally safe and well tolerated in this series of adolescents and young women with SLE, with no increase in mean SLEDAI scores. Progression to renal failure in two patients was most likely secondary to pre-existing severe renal chronicity and not secondary to HPV vaccination. Immunogenicity to the quadrivalent HPV vaccine was excellent, with the seropositivity rate >94% in all four HPV types.
PMCID: PMC3751269  PMID: 23924237
Human papillomavirus; Lupus; Safety; Immunogenicity; Pediatric; Vaccine
19.  Urinary Biomarkers in Lupus Nephritis 
Renal involvement in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus in the form of severe lupus nephritis is associated with a significant burden of morbidity and mortality. Conventional laboratory biomarkers in current use have not been very successful in anticipating disease flares, predicting renal histology, or decreasing unwanted outcomes. Since early treatment is associated with improved clinical results, it is thus essential to identify new biomarkers with substantial predictive power to reduce the serious sequelae of this difficult to control lupus manifestation. Indeed, considerable efforts and progress have been made over the last few years in the search for novel biomarkers. Since urinary biomarkers are more easily obtainable with much less risk to the patient than repeat renal biopsies, and these may more accurately discern between renal disease and other organ manifestations than their serum counterparts, there has been tremendous interest in studying new candidate urine biomarkers. Below, we review several promising urinary biomarkers under investigation, including total proteinuria and microalbuminuria, urinary proteomic signatures, and the individual inflammatory mediators interleukin-6, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, CXCL16, IP-10, and tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2917506  PMID: 20127204
Biomarkers; Lupus nephritis; Urinary biomarkers; Proteomics; TWEAK; SLE
20.  Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e491.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a serious systemic autoimmune disorder that affects multiple organ systems and is characterized by unpredictable flares of disease. Recent evidence indicates a role for type I interferon (IFN) in SLE pathogenesis; however, the downstream effects of IFN pathway activation are not well understood. Here we test the hypothesis that type I IFN-regulated proteins are present in the serum of SLE patients and correlate with disease activity.
Methods and Findings
We performed a comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE and identified dysregulated levels of 30 cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and soluble receptors. Particularly striking was the highly coordinated up-regulation of 12 inflammatory and/or homeostatic chemokines, molecules that direct the movement of leukocytes in the body. Most of the identified chemokines were inducible by type I IFN, and their levels correlated strongly with clinical and laboratory measures of disease activity.
These data suggest that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed in human SLE. Furthermore, the levels of serum chemokines may serve as convenient biomarkers for disease activity in lupus.
A comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE suggests that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed.
Editors' Summary
The term “lupus,” meaning wolf in Latin, is often used as an abbreviation for the disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The name may have been given because some people with SLE have a rash that slightly resembles a wolf's face. The condition affects around 50 to 100 people per 100,000, and is much more common in women than men. SLE is a complicated disease that comes about when antibodies inappropriately attack the body's own connective tissues, although it is not known why this happens. Symptoms vary between different people; the disease may get better and then worse, without explanation; and can affect many different organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, and brain and nervous system. SLE is difficult for doctors to diagnose. Although the disease cannot be cured, patients who are diagnosed with SLE can be treated for their symptoms, and the right management can slow progress of the disease. One area of SLE research focuses on finding “molecular markers” (e.g., proteins or other compounds) that could be tested for in the blood. Researchers hope this would help doctors to more accurately diagnose SLE initially, and then also help to track progress in a patient's condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Gene expression” is a term meaning the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into the structures and functions of a cell. These investigators had found in previous studies that certain genes were more “highly expressed” in the blood cells of patients with SLE. Some of these genes were already known to be regulated by interferons (a group of proteins, produced by certain blood cells, that are important in helping to defend against viral infections). The investigators performing this study wanted to understand more clearly the role of interferon in SLE and to see whether the genes that are more highly expressed in patients with SLE go on to produce higher levels of protein, which might then provide useful markers for monitoring the condition.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research project was a “case-control” study, in which the researchers compared the levels of certain proteins in the blood of people who had SLE with the levels in people who did not have the condition. Thirty people were recruited as cases, from a group of patients with SLE who have been under evaluation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine since 1987. Fifteen controls were recruited from a group of healthy people of similar age and sex as the patients with SLE; everyone involved in the study gave their consent to take part. Blood samples were taken from each individual, and the serum (liquid component of blood) was separated out. The serum levels of 160 different blood proteins were then measured. When comparing levels of blood proteins between the groups, the researchers found that 30 specific proteins were present at higher or lower levels in the SLE-affected patients. Many of these proteins are cytokines, which are regulated by interferons and are involved in the process of “signaling” within the immune system. A few proteins were found at lower levels. Levels of the interferon-regulated proteins were, on average, seen at higher levels in people whose condition was more severe.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that patients with SLE are likely to have a very different pattern of regulation of certain proteins within the blood, particularly the proteins involved in signaling within the immune system. The authors propose that these proteins may be involved in the progression of the disease. There is also the possibility that some of these proteins may prove useful in diagnostic tests, or in tests for monitoring how the disease progresses. However, before any such tests could be used in clinical practice, they would need to be further developed and then thoroughly tested in clinical trials.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Patient information from the UK National Health Service on systemic lupus erythematosus
Patient handout from the US National Institutes of Health
MedlinePLUS encyclopedia entry on lupus
Information on lupus from the UK Arthritis Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC1702557  PMID: 17177599
21.  Interferon-Regulated Chemokines as Biomarkers of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity: A Validation Study 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(10):3098-3107.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by unpredictable flares of disease activity and irreversible damage to multiple organ systems. An earlier study showed that SLE patients carrying an interferon gene expression signature in blood have elevated serum levels of interferon (IFN)-regulated chemokines. These chemokines were associated with more severe and active disease and showed promise as SLE disease activity biomarkers. This study was designed to validate IFN regulated chemokines as biomarkers of SLE disease activity in 267 longitudinally-followed SLE patients.
To validate the potential utility of serum chemokine levels as biomarkers for disease activity, we measured serum chemokine levels – CXCL10 (IP-10), CCL2 (MCP-1), and CCL19 (MIP-3B) – in an independent cohort of 267 SLE patients followed longitudinally over one year (1166 total visits).
Serum chemokine levels correlated with current visit lupus activity (p=2×10−10), rising at flare (p=1×10−3) and decreasing as disease remitted (p=1×10−3), and performed better than currently available laboratory tests. Chemokine levels measured at a single baseline visit in patients with SLEDAI ≤4 were predictive of lupus flare over the ensuing year (p=6×10−4).
Monitoring serum chemokine levels in SLE may improve assessment of current disease activity, the prediction of future flare, and overall clinical decision-making.
PMCID: PMC2842939  PMID: 19790071
22.  Belimumab Reduces Autoantibodies, Normalizes Low Complement, and Reduces Select B-Cell Populations in Patients With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(7):2328-2337.
To assess the effects of the B-lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS)-specific inhibitor belimumab on immunologic biomarkers, including B- and T-cell populations, and maintenance of antibody titers to prior vaccines in autoantibody-positive systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients.
Pooled data from two phase 3 trials—BLISS-52 and -76—comparing belimumab 1 or 10 mg/kg vs placebo (each plus standard SLE therapy) were analyzed for changes in autoantibodies, immunoglobulin (Ig), and complement (C); BLISS-76 patients were analyzed for changes in B- and T-cell populations, and effects on prior vaccine-induced antibody levels.
Belimumab-treated patients experienced significant sustained reductions in IgG and autoantibodies, and improvement in C3/C4, resulting in greater positive-to-negative conversion rates for IgG anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA), anti-Smith, anticardiolipin, and antiribosomal P autoantibodies, and normalization of hypergammaglobulinemia and low C3/C4. Belimumab-treated patients experienced significant decreases in naïve and activated B cells, as well as plasma cells, whereas memory B cells and T-cell populations did not decrease. Belimumab did not substantially affect pre-existing antipneumococcal or antitetanus antibody levels. Post-hoc analysis showed greater reductions in SLE disease activity and the risk of severe flares in patients treated with belimumab 10 mg/kg (P ≤ 0.01) who were anti-dsDNA positive with low C3/C4 at baseline. Normalization of C3 or anti-dsDNA by 8 weeks, irrespective of therapy, was predictive of a reduced risk of severe flare over 52 weeks.
Belimumab appears to promote normalization of serologic activity and reduce BLyS-dependent B-cell subsets in serologically and clinically active SLE. Greater serologic activity may predict a better treatment response to belimumab.
PMCID: PMC3350827  PMID: 22275291
23.  Improved prognostic diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus in an early stage of disease by a combination of different predictive biomarkers identified by proteome analysis 
The EPMA Journal  2014;5(1):5.
Since the original characterizations of the pathological features defining glomerulonephritis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were reported, numerous studies have linked the development of pathology to the abnormal expression of protein in urine. The determination of proteinuria is important and necessary; however, this alone is not predictive enough to confirm a suspected diagnosis, especially in an early state of disease when symptoms are not yet observed. Furthermore, several studies have already highlighted the pitfalls of proteinuria both as a clinical prognostic marker and as a factor predicting the progressive loss of renal function. Therefore, the identification of more accurate and predictive biomarkers is urgently needed. To address this, comparative urinary and kidney profiling was performed in the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse as a model of lupus tubulointerstitial nephritis and lupus glomerulonephritis corresponding to SLE in humans.
Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein (THG; uromodulin) and beta2-microglubulin (β2M) were identified as immune process-related molecules in the urine and kidney of the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse model. Furthermore, we show that the combinatory expression profile of THG and β2M as biomarkers, normalized by the proteinuria level, is more predictive than proteinuria determination alone. Data were confirmed by comparative urinary profiling of SLE in mice by Western blot and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis.
Based on our results, we are able to diagnose SLE in the MRL-lpr/lpr mouse in a very early state of disease, when the proteinuria level alone is not able to confirm a suspected diagnosis. The pre-validation of our urinary biomarkers is associated with clinical outcomes of glomerulonephritis in humans and merits additional investigation. Further conformations of our predictive biomarkers in the urine of SLE patients in the course of a clinical study are still ongoing.
PMCID: PMC3998108  PMID: 24650571
Lupus nephritis; Panel of predictive biomarker; Systemic lupus erythematosus; MRL-lpr/lpr mouse model
24.  Pregnancy-Related Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Clinical Features, Outcome and Risk Factors of Disease Flares — A Case Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e104375.
To investigate the clinical features, outcome, and risk factors of disease flares in patients with pregnancy-related lupus (PRL).
Medical charts of 155 consecutive PRL inpatients were systematically reviewed, including demographic data, clinical features, laboratory findings, treatment, complications, and outcome.
PRL cases were divided into active (a-PRL) (n = 82, 53.0%) and stable lupus (s-PRL) (n = 73, 47.0%). Compared with nonpregnant active female systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, a-PRL including new-onset lupus (n-PRL) and flare lupus (f-PRL) (n = 41 respectively), had a higher incidence of renal and hematological involvement but less mucocutaneous and musculoskeletal involvement (p<0.05). The incidence of preeclampsia/eclampsia, fetal loss, and preterm birth were significantly higher in a-PRL than in s-PRL (p<0.05). Despite receiving a more vigorous glucocorticoid treatment, a-PRL mothers had a poorer prognosis (p<0.001). Five (6.1%) of them died and 13 (15.9%) developed severe irreversible organ failure, whereas none of these events was observed in the s-PRL group. Multivariate logistic analysis indicated that a history of lupus flares and serological activity (hypocomplementemia and/or anti-dsDNA positivity) at the time of conception were associated with lupus flares in PRL mothers.
SLE patients with a flare history and serological activity at the time of conception were at an increased risk of disease flares during pregnancy and puerperium. a-PRL patients were more prone to renal and hematological involvement, pregnancy complications, and a poorer prognosis despite more vigorous glucocorticoid treatment.
PMCID: PMC4131906  PMID: 25118692
25.  Increased excretion of soluble interleukin 2 receptors and free light chain immunoglobulins in the urine of patients with active lupus nephritis. 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1992;51(2):168-172.
Samples of protein from the urine of 23 patients with lupus nephropathy and 15 patients with proteinuria who did not have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were studied for the presence of cytokines, soluble interleukin 2 receptors (sIL-2R), and free light chain immunoglobulins. The patients with lupus nephropathy were divided into two groups with active (nephritis) and inactive inflammation (nephrosis) based on the results of the analysis of urine samples and renal histology. The crude urine proteins (5 mg/ml) after precipitation by 80% ammonium sulphate from 14 patients with lupus nephritis contained higher concentrations of sIL-2R (4.88 (SEM 1.27 ng/ml) than those from nine patients with nephrosis (1.11 (0.52) ng/ml) or 15 patients without SLE (1.31 (0.87) ng/ml). The concentration of sIL-2R in protein from urine samples was not correlated with the concentration in plasma and was inversely correlated with the excretion of protein in urine over 24 hours in patients with SLE. It is suggested that, in addition to leakage from the circulation, the local production of sIL-2R by inflamed kidneys is possible. The crude proteins in urine were further fractionated by gel filtration on Sephacryl S-200. Arbitrarily, four fractions could be obtained from urine from patients with SLE but only three fractions were found in the urine of patients without SLE. Fraction IV derived from patients with nephritis or nephrosis augmented the pokeweed mitogen induced [3H]thymidine uptake of mononuclear cells. In addition, the positive rates of free kappa (kappa) (35.7%) and lambda (lambda) (42.9%) chains in proteins in urine from nephritic patients were higher than those in the other two groups. These results suggest that the severity of inflammation in the kidneys of patients with lupus can be reflected by the increased excretion of sIL-2R, free light chain immunoglobulins, and cytokine-like molecules in urine.
PMCID: PMC1005652  PMID: 1550398

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