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1.  Development of additional autoimmune diseases in a population of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2000;59(3):230-232.
OBJECTIVE—In view of the recognised clustering of autoimmune diseases (AID), the chronology of development of other autoimmune diseases in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients was considered.
METHODS—A retrospective review of a well documented population of 215 patients with SLE was undertaken. The duration of follow up ranged from 2 to 18 years.
RESULTS—Of these 215 patients, 65 (30%) had at least one other AID—including 51 (24%) having one other AID, 12 (6%) having two and two (1%) having three other AID in addition to their SLE. Twelve different autoimmune diseases were identified. The majority of patients developed a further AID after SLE had been diagnosed (62%) reflecting the relatively early age of onset of SLE. There was no significant difference in the age of onset of rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome and hypothyroidism that had developed before SLE compared with those who developed these diseases after SLE. However, those who developed autoimmune thrombocytopenia (AITP) before SLE were significantly younger than those who developed AITP after SLE (16.7 v 38.7 years respectively, p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS—Physicians caring for SLE patients should remain alert to the possible development of a second AID during follow up. Further well matched case-control studies are required to define the exact relation between SLE and other AID.

PMCID: PMC1753089  PMID: 10700434
2.  Autoimmune hepatitis in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome: a series of two-hundred and two patients 
Based on the revised criteria of the American-European Consensus Group, we retrospectively established the diagnosis of primary or secondary Sjögren's syndrome for 202 patients referred to a Sjögren's syndrome clinic. Of these, 58 patients and 8 patients fulfilled criteria for primary and secondary Sjögren's syndrome, respectively. Of the 58 patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, one (1.7%) had definite autoimmune hepatitis, as defined by the International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group diagnostic criteria. One additional symptomatic patient who did not fulfill criteria for primary Sjögren's syndrome had definite autoimmune hepatitis. None of the patients with secondary Sjögren's syndrome had definite autoimmune hepatitis. Two (1%) of the 194 patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome or clinical symptoms had primary biliary cirrhosis. These values are lower than those reported by prior studies with smaller patient populations and likely represent a more accurate estimate of the true prevalence of these diseases in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome.
PMCID: PMC2907119  PMID: 20661405
Autoimmune hepatitis; Sjögren's syndrome; primary biliary cirrhosis
3.  Autoimmune thyroiditis and anti-thyroid antibodies in primary Sjögren's syndrome: a case–control study 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2004;63(5):575-577.
Objective: To determine the frequency of antithyroid antibodies and the presence of autoimmune thyroiditis among patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome.
Design: A case–control study.
Methods: 53 consecutive patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, 30 with rheumatoid arthritis, 12 with secondary Sjögren's syndrome associated with rheumatoid arthritis, 17 with autoimmune thyroiditis, and 53 apparently healthy controls were studied for anti-TG and anti-TPO antibodies as well as serum thyroid hormones and TSH levels.
Results: The overall frequencies of thyroid antibodies were 6/53 (11%) in primary Sjögren's syndrome, 2/30 (7%) in rheumatoid arthritis, 2/12 (17%) in secondary Sjögren's syndrome, 4/53 (8%) in healthy controls, and 16/17 (94%) in autoimmune thyroiditis. There was no difference in the frequency of the thyroid antibodies among the groups if patients with autoimmune thyroiditis were excluded (p = 0.415 for anti-TPO; p = 0.275 for anti-TG; p = 0.696 for either anti-TG and/or anti-TPO). Only two patients with primary Sjogren's syndrome had clinical hypothyroidism associated with autoimmune thyroiditis.
Conclusions: In this Turkish population, no association between primary Sjögren's syndrome and autoimmune thyroiditis was found.
PMCID: PMC1755005  PMID: 15082490
4.  Patterns and influence of familial autoimmunity in pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus 
A high prevalence of autoimmune disease (AD) has been documented in relatives of adult patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, data on familial inheritance patterns in pediatric SLE patients is scarce.
The charts of 69 patients with pediatric-onset SLE were reviewed retrospectively. The primary aim was to describe the prevalence and types of AD in relatives of children with SLE. The secondary aims were: 1) to compare severity of SLE in children with and without relatives affected by AD, and 2) to evaluate the impact of baseline demographics on severity of SLE in subjects. At diagnosis, 42% of subjects had one or more first, second, or third degree relative(s) with AD; and 32% of subjects had one or more first degree relative(s) with AD. The most common diseases in relatives of children with SLE were SLE (21%) and thyroid disease (15%). Subjects with no family history of AD were more likely to have severe SLE. SLE severity in subjects did not differ by gender. Children presenting with SLE at an earlier age were found to have more severe disease.
This study demonstrated a high prevalence of AD in families of children with SLE, although a family history of AD did not correlate with more severe SLE in subjects. Future larger studies are necessary to elucidate patterns of familial inheritance and baseline patient characteristics that may affect severity of disease in pediatric SLE.
PMCID: PMC3542590  PMID: 22891746
Pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus; Severity; Inheritance patterns
5.  Autoantibodies against the replication protein A complex in systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases 
Replication protein A (RPA), a heterotrimer with subunits of molecular masses 70, 32, and 14 kDa, is a single-stranded-DNA-binding factor involved in DNA replication, repair, and recombination. There have been only three reported cases of anti-RPA in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren syndrome (SjS). This study sought to clarify the clinical significance of autoantibodies against RPA. Sera from 1,119 patients enrolled during the period 2000 to 2005 were screened by immunoprecipitation (IP) of 35S-labeled K562 cell extract. Antigen-capture ELISA with anti-RPA32 mAb, immunofluorescent antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and western blot analysis with purified RPA were also performed. Our results show that nine sera immunoprecipitated the RPA70–RPA32–RPA14 complex and all were strongly positive by ELISA (titers 1:62,500 to 1:312,500). No additional sera were positive by ELISA and subsequently confirmed by IP or western blotting. All sera showed fine speckled/homogeneous nuclear staining. Anti-RPA was found in 1.4% (4/276) of SLE and 2.5% (1/40) of SjS sera, but not in rheumatoid arthritis (0/35), systemic sclerosis (0/47), or polymyositis/dermatomyositis (0/43). Eight of nine patients were female and there was no racial predilection. Other positive patients had interstitial lung disease, autoimmune thyroiditis/hepatitis C virus/pernicious anemia, or an unknown diagnosis. Autoantibody specificities found in up to 40% of SLE and other diseases, such as anti-nRNP, anti-Sm, anti-Ro, and anti-La, were unusual in anti-RPA-positive sera. Only one of nine had anti-Ro, and zero of nine had anti-nRNP, anti-Sm, anti-La, or anti-ribosomal P antibodies. In summary, high titers of anti-RPA antibodies were found in nine patients (1.4% of SLE and other diseases). Other autoantibodies found in SLE were rare in this subset, suggesting that patients with anti-RPA may form a unique clinical and immunological subset.
PMCID: PMC1779422  PMID: 16846524
6.  Association between autoimmune pancreatitis and systemic autoimmune diseases 
AIM: To investigate the association between autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) and systemic autoimmune diseases (SAIDs) by measurement of serum immunoglobulin G4 (IgG4).
METHODS: The serum level of IgG4 was measured in 61 patients with SAIDs of different types who had not yet participated in glucocorticosteroid treatment. Patients with an elevated IgG4 level were examined by abdominal ultrasonography (US) and, in some cases, by computer tomography (CT).
RESULTS: Elevated serum IgG4 levels (919 ± 996 mg/L) were detected in 17 (28%) of the 61 SAID patients. 10 patients had Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) (IgG4: 590 ± 232 mg/L), 2 of them in association with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and 7 patients (IgG4: 1388 ± 985.5 mg/L) had systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The IgG4 level in the SLE patients and that in patients with SS were not significantly different from that in AIP patients (783 ± 522 mg/L). Abdominal US and CT did not reveal any characteristic features of AIP among the SAID patients with an elevated IgG4 level.
CONCLUSION: The serum IgG4 level may be elevated in SAIDs without the presence of AIP. The determination of serum IgG4 does not seem to be suitable for the differentiation between IgG4-related diseases and SAIDs.
PMCID: PMC3370001  PMID: 22690073
Autoimmune pancreatitis; Serum immunoglobulin G4 level; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Sjögren’s syndrome; Mikulicz’s disease
7.  Specificity of anti-SSB as a diagnostic marker for the classification of systemic lupus erythematosus 
The aim of the present study was to investigate the sensitivity and specificity of anti-Sjögren’s syndrome type B (SSB) antibodies for diagnosing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to understand the correlation between anti-SSB antibodies and the clinical manifestations of SLE. A line immunoassay (LIA) was used to detect the presence of serum anti-SSB antibodies in SLE patients. The clinical manifestations of the patients were recorded to enable their correlation with the serum anti-SSB antibodies to be analyzed. In 25.7% of the 74 SLE patients, the serum was positive for anti-SSB antibodies, whereas only 3.3% of the 30 control cases were positive. The specificity of anti-SSB antibodies for detecting SLE was 96.7%. In anti-SSB antibody-positive SLE patients, the incidence of cheek erythema, alopecia, serositis, secondary Sjögren’s syndrome (sSS), leukocytopenia, elevated immunoglobulin (Ig)G and positive presence of anti-Sjögren’s syndrome type A (SSA)60 or anti-SSA52 antibodies was higher than in the anti-SSB antibody-negative group (P<0.05). Anti-SSB antibodies are important for the diagnosis of SLE and are associated with cheek erythema, alopecia, serositis, sSS, leukocytopenia, the elevation of IgG and positive presence of anti-SSA60 or anti-SSA52 antibodies.
PMCID: PMC3702711  PMID: 23837059
anti-Sjögren’s syndrome type B antibody; linear immunoblot assay; systemic lupus erythematosus
8.  Autologous stem-cell transplantation in refractory autoimmune diseases after in vivo immunoablation and ex vivo depletion of mononuclear cells 
Arthritis Research  2000;2(4):327-336.
Autoimmune diseases that are resistant to conventional treatment cause severe morbidity and even mortality. In the present study we demonstrate that complete remissions can be achieved in refractory polychondritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), even at advanced stage, with the use of autologous stem-cell transplantation (SCT). Remissions persisted after reconstitution of the immune system. In the treatment of advanced systemic sclerosis (SSc), stable disease may be achieved with autologous SCT.
Patients with persistently active autoimmune diseases are considered to be candidates for autologous SCT. We performed a phase 1/2 study in a limited number of patients who were refractory to conventional immunosuppressive treatment. Following a period of uncontrolled disease activity for at least 6 months, autologous SCT was performed, after in vivo immunoablation and ex vivo depletion of mononuclear cells.
To investigate feasibility, toxicity and efficacy of the treatment, and the incidence of emergent infections.
Seven patients (aged between 23 and 48 years) were included in the single-centre trial: one had relapsing polychondritis, three had treatment-refractory SLE and three patients had SSc. Stem-cell mobilization was achieved by treatment with moderate-dose cyclophosphamide (2 g/m2; in terms of myelotoxic side effects or myelosuppression) and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). CD34- cells of the leukapheresis products were removed by high-gradient magnetic cell sorting. After stem-cell collection, immunoablation was performed with high-dose cyclophosphamide (200 mg/kg body weight) and antithymocyte globulin (ATG; 90 mg/kg body weight). Autologous SCT was followed by reconstitution of the immune system, which was monitored by six-parameter flow cytometry and standard serology. The trial fulfilled the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) guidelines for blood and bone marrow stem-cell transplants in autoimmune disease.
Among the seven patients studied, the patient with relapsing polychondritis and the patients with SLE were successfully treated and remained in complete remission during a follow up of 10-21 months. Remission persisted despite reconstitution of the immune system, resulting in high numbers of effector-/memory-type T-helper lymphocytes and increasing populations in the naïve T-cell compartment. Before autologous SCT, one of the patients with SLE had a long-lasting secondary antiphospholipid syndrome, with high anticardiolipin antibodies and thromboembolic events. After autologous SCT the antiphospholipid antibodies became negative, and no thrombosis occurred during follow up. Two of the patients with SSc were unaffected by treatment with autologous SCT for 6 or 13 months. The other patient with SSc died 2 days after autologous SCT because of cardiac failure.
During stem-cell mobilization with G-CSF, flares of autoimmune disease were seen in the patient with polychondritis and in one patient with SLE. The strategy utilized for depletion of CD34- cells led to a reduction by 4.5-5 log of contaminating CD3+ cells in the transplant. T-cell add-back was required in the patient with polychondritis and in one patient with SLE to provide a dose of 1×104 CD3+ cells/kg body weight for the transplant.
In vivo immunoablation in combination with autologous SCT after ex vivo depletion of CD34- cells can block the autoimmune process in relapsing polychondritis or SLE without incidence of severe infections. The remissions were achieved in patients with advanced disease that was refractory to previous intensive immunosuppressive therapy. The present results do not indicate that large-scale contamination of the stem-cell transplant with autoreactive cells after selection for CD34+cells occurred. After the preparative regimen, the application of G-CSF was avoided, because induction of flares of the autoimmune disease were noticed during the mobilization of stem cells. In SSc patients, distinct remissions were not observable after autologous SCT; the serological and clinical status did not improve. Follow-up periods of more than 12 months may be required to identify successful treatment with autologous SCT in SSc patients. Among the various autoimmune diseases the efficacy of autologous SCT appears to be dependent on the underlying pathophysiology. The results of the present phase 1/2 study suggest that patients with advanced stage SSc should not be treated with autologous SCT, until the reasons for the lack of response and the possible mortality due to cardiac complications are identified. The observation of flares of autoimmune disease after application of G-CSF emphasizes the need for critical evaluation of the role of G-CSF in immunoablative regimens.
PMCID: PMC17815  PMID: 11056673
autologous stem-cell transplantation; polychondritis; refractory autoimmune disease; systemic lupus erythematosus; systemic sclerosis
9.  Anti-class a scavenger receptor autoantibodies from systemic lupus erythematosus patients impair phagocytic clearance of apoptotic cells by macrophages in vitro 
Inadequate clearance of apoptotic cells by macrophages is one of the reasons for the breakdown of self-tolerance. Class A scavenger receptors, macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO) and scavenger receptor A (SR-A), which are expressed on macrophages, play important roles in the uptake of apoptotic cells. A previous study reported the presence of the anti-MARCO antibody in lupus-prone mice and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of anti-class A scavenger receptor antibodies in patients with various autoimmune diseases, in particular SLE, and the functional implication of those autoantibodies in the phagocytic clearance of apoptotic cells by macrophages.
Purified recombinant scavenger receptor cysteine-rich (SRCR) polypeptide (ligand-binding domain of MARCO) and recombinant SR-A were used as antigens. By using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, the anti-SRCR and anti-SR-A antibodies were detected in the sera of untreated patients with SLE (n = 65), rheumatoid arthritis (n = 65), primary Sjögren syndrome (n = 25), and healthy blood donors (n = 85). The effect of IgG purified from SLE patients or healthy controls on the phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages was measured by the flow cytometry assay.
Anti-SRCR antibodies were present in patients with SLE (18.5%) and rheumatoid arthritis (3.1%), but not in those with primary Sjögren syndrome. Anti-SR-A antibodies were present in patients with SLE (33.8%), rheumatoid arthritis (13.8%), and primary Sjögren syndrome (12.0%). IgG from SLE patients positive for anti-SRCR or anti-SR-A antibodies showed a higher inhibition rate on binding of apoptotic cells to macrophages than IgG from healthy controls (both P < 0.05). IgG from SLE patients positive for both anti-SRCR and anti-SR-A antibodies showed a significantly higher inhibition rate on ingestion of apoptotic by macrophages than IgG from healthy controls (P < 0.05).
Our results indicated that autoantibodies to class A scavenger receptors might contribute to the breakdown of self-tolerance by impairing the clearance of apoptotic debris and play a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease, especially in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3241353  PMID: 21281474
10.  The Coexistence of Antiphospholipid Syndrome and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Colombians 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110242.
To examine the prevalence and associated factors related to the coexistence of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in a cohort of Colombian patients with SLE, and to discuss the coexistence of APS with other autoimmune diseases (ADs).
A total of 376 patients with SLE were assessed for the presence of the following: 1) confirmed APS; 2) positivity for antiphospholipid (aPL) antibodies without a prior thromboembolic nor obstetric event; and 3) SLE patients without APS nor positivity for aPL antibodies. Comparisons between groups 1 and 3 were evaluated by bivariate and multivariate analysis.
Although the prevalence of aPL antibodies was 54%, APS was present in just 9.3% of SLE patients. In our series, besides cardiovascular disease (AOR 3.38, 95% CI 1.11–10.96, p = 0.035), pulmonary involvement (AOR 5.06, 95% CI 1.56–16.74, p = 0.007) and positivity for rheumatoid factor (AOR 4.68, 95%IC 1.63–14.98, p = 0.006) were factors significantly associated with APS-SLE. APS also may coexist with rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, autoimmune thyroid diseases, systemic sclerosis, systemic vasculitis, dermatopolymyositis, primary biliary cirrhosis and autoimmune hepatitis.
APS is a systemic AD that may coexist with other ADs, the most common being SLE. Awareness of this polyautoimmunity should be addressed promptly to establish strategies for controlling modifiable risk factors in those patients.
PMCID: PMC4208791  PMID: 25343509
11.  A Comprehensive Analysis of Shared Loci between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Sixteen Autoimmune Diseases Reveals Limited Genetic Overlap 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002406.
In spite of the well-known clustering of multiple autoimmune disorders in families, analyses of specific shared genes and polymorphisms between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) have been limited. Therefore, we comprehensively tested autoimmune variants for association with SLE, aiming to identify pleiotropic genetic associations between these diseases. We compiled a list of 446 non–Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of populations of European ancestry across 17 ADs. We then tested these variants in our combined Caucasian SLE cohorts of 1,500 cases and 5,706 controls. We tested a subset of these polymorphisms in an independent Caucasian replication cohort of 2,085 SLE cases and 2,854 controls, allowing the computation of a meta-analysis between all cohorts. We have uncovered novel shared SLE loci that passed multiple comparisons adjustment, including the VTCN1 (rs12046117, P = 2.02×10−06) region. We observed that the loci shared among the most ADs include IL23R, OLIG3/TNFAIP3, and IL2RA. Given the lack of a universal autoimmune risk locus outside of the MHC and variable specificities for different diseases, our data suggests partial pleiotropy among ADs. Hierarchical clustering of ADs suggested that the most genetically related ADs appear to be type 1 diabetes with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis. These findings support a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. For many of the shared GWAS autoimmune loci, we found no evidence for association with SLE, including IL23R. Also, several established SLE loci are apparently not associated with other ADs, including the ITGAM-ITGAX and TNFSF4 regions. This study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune loci to date, supports a relatively distinct non–MHC genetic susceptibility for SLE, provides further evidence for previously and newly identified shared genes in SLE, and highlights the value of studies of potentially pleiotropic genes in autoimmune diseases.
Author Summary
It is well known that multiple autoimmune disorders cluster in families. However, all of the genetic variants that explain this clustering have not been discovered, and the specific genetic variants shared between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) are not known. In order to better understand the genetic factors that explain this predisposition to autoimmunity, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune genetic variants. First we considered results from 17 ADs and compiled a list with 446 significant genetic variants from these studies. We identified some genetic variants extensively shared between ADs, as well as the ADs that share the most variants. The genetic overlap between SLE and other ADs was modest. Next we tested how important all the 446 genetic variants were in our collection with a minimum of 1,500 SLE patients. Among the most significant variants in SLE, the majority had already been identified in previous studies, but we also discovered variants in two important immune genes. In summary, our data identified diseases with common genetic risk factors and novel SLE effects, and this supports a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. This study helps delineate the genetic architecture of ADs.
PMCID: PMC3234215  PMID: 22174698
12.  Disease progression in mothers of children enrolled in the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2008;68(6):828-835.
To evaluate autoimmune disease progression in asymptomatic and pauci-symptomatic mothers of children with neonatal lupus (NL).
Clinical information on mothers enrolled in the Research Registry for NL (RRNL) was obtained from medical records. Genotyping was performed for −308A/G tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α, 869T/C transforming growth factor (TGF)β and −889C/T interleukin (IL)1α.
Of the 321 mothers enrolled, 229 had at least 6 months of follow-up. Of the 51 mothers who were asymptomatic at the NL child’s birth, 26 progressed: 12 developed pauci-undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome (pauci-UAS), 2 poly-UAS, 7 SS, 4 SLE and 1 SLE/SS. The median time to develop any symptom was 3.15 years. Of the 37 mothers classified as pauci-UAS at the NL child’s birth, 16 progressed: 5 developed poly-UAS, 6 Sjögren syndrome (SS), 4 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and 1 SLE/SS. Of the pauci-UAS mothers enrolled within 1 year, the median time to progression was 6.7 years. Four mothers developed lupus nephritis (two asymptomatic, two pauci-UAS). The probability of an asymptomatic mother developing SLE by 10 years was 18.6%, and developing probable/definite SS was 27.9%. NL manifestations did not predict disease progression in an asymptomatic mother. Mothers with anti-Sjögren syndrome A antigen (SSA/)Ro and anti-Sjögren syndrome B antigen (SSB)/La were nearly twice as likely to develop an autoimmune disease as mothers with anti-SSA/Ro only. Only TGFβT/T was significantly higher in SLE mothers compared to asymptomatic mothers (p = 0.03).
Continued follow-up of asymptomatic NL mothers is warranted since nearly half progress, albeit few develop SLE. While the anti-SSB/La antibodies may be a risk factor for progression, further work is needed to determine reliable biomarkers in otherwise healthy women with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies identified solely because of an NL child.
PMCID: PMC3558032  PMID: 18625627
13.  Serum Type I Interferon Activity Is Dependent on Maternal Diagnosis in Anti-SSA/Ro–Positive Mothers of Children With Neonatal Lupus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):541-546.
The type I interferon (IFN) pathway is activated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high serum levels of IFN are associated with anti-SSA/Ro autoantibodies. To investigate the clinical features associated with type I IFN production in vivo, we compared serum IFN activity in individuals with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies who were asymptomatic with that in individuals with clinical manifestations of SLE or Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Antibody-positive sera from 84 mothers of children with manifestations of neonatal lupus were studied for type I IFN activity, using a functional reporter cell assay. Maternal health status was characterized as asymptomatic, SS, SLE, pauci-SLE, or pauci-SS, based on a screening questionnaire, telephone interview, and review of medical records. The prefix “pauci-” indicates symptoms insufficient for a formal classification of the disease.
Only 4% of asymptomatic mothers had high serum type I IFN activity, compared with 73% with pauci-SLE (P = 5.7 × 10−5), 35% with SLE (P = 0.011), and 32% of patients with SS (P = 0.032). One of the 4 patients with pauci-SS had high levels of IFN. The majority of patients for whom longitudinal data were available had stable type I IFN activity over time, and changes in IFN activity were not clearly accompanied by changes in the clinical diagnosis.
Patients with SLE, patients with pauci-SLE, and patients with SS are more likely to have high serum IFN activity than asymptomatic individuals with SSA/Ro autoantibodies, suggesting that these autoantibodies are insufficient for activation of the type I IFN pathway, and that disease-specific factors are important for type I IFN generation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2755051  PMID: 18240214
14.  Sjögren's syndrome: An underdiagnosed condition in mixed connective tissue disease 
Clinics  2014;69(3):158-162.
To determine the prevalence of sicca symptoms, dry eye, and secondary Sjögren's syndrome and to evaluate the severity of dry eye in patients with mixed connective tissue disease.
In total, 44 consecutive patients with mixed connective tissue disease (Kasukawa's criteria) and 41 healthy controls underwent Schirmer's test, a tear film breakup time test, and ocular surface staining to investigate dry eye. In addition, the dry eye severity was graded. Ocular and oral symptoms were assessed using a structured questionnaire. Salivary gland scintigraphy was performed in all patients. Classification of secondary Sjögren's syndrome was assessed according to the American-European Consensus Group criteria.
The patients and controls had comparable ages (44.7±12.4 vs. 47.2±12.2 years) and frequencies of female gender (93 vs. 95%) and Caucasian ethnicity (71.4 vs. 85%). Ocular symptoms (47.7 vs. 24.4%) and oral symptoms (52.3 vs. 9.7%) were significantly more frequent in patients than in controls. Fourteen (31.8%) patients fulfilled Sjögren's syndrome criteria, seven of whom (50%) did not have this diagnosis prior to study inclusion. A further comparison of patients with mixed connective tissue disease with or without Sjögren's syndrome revealed that the former presented significantly lower frequencies of polyarthritis and cutaneous involvement than did the patients without Sjögren's syndrome. Moderate to severe dry eye was found in 13 of 14 patients with mixed connective tissue disease and Sjögren's syndrome (92.8%).
Sjögren's syndrome, particularly with moderate to severe dry eye, is frequent in patients with mixed connective tissue disease. These findings alert the physician regarding the importance of the appropriate diagnosis of this syndrome in such patients.
PMCID: PMC3935126  PMID: 24626939
Mixed Connective Tissue Disease; Sjögren's Syndrome; Dry Eye; Dry Mouth; Anti-Ro/SSA
15.  The epidemiology of Sjögren’s syndrome 
Clinical Epidemiology  2014;6:247-255.
Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of exocrine glands. It can present as an entity by itself, primary Sjögren’s syndrome (pSS), or in addition to another autoimmune disease, secondary Sjögren’s syndrome (sSS). pSS has a strong female propensity and is more prevalent in Caucasian women, with the mean age of onset usually in the 4th to 5th decade. Clinical presentation varies from mild symptoms, such as classic sicca symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and xerostomia, to severe systemic symptoms, involving multiple organ systems. Furthermore, a range of autoantibodies can be present in Sjögren’s syndrome (anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La antibodies, rheumatoid factor, cryoglobulins, antinuclear antibodies), complicating the presentation. The heterogeneity of signs and symptoms has led to the development of multiple classification criteria. However, there is no accepted universal classification criterion for the diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. There are a limited number of studies that have been published on the epidemiology of Sjögren’s syndrome, and the incidence and prevalence of the disease varies according to the classification criteria used. The data is further confounded by selection bias and misclassification bias, making it difficult for interpretation. The aim of this review is to understand the reported incidence and prevalence on pSS and sSS, the frequency of autoantibodies, and the risk of malignancy, which has been associated with pSS, taking into account the different classification criteria used.
PMCID: PMC4122257  PMID: 25114590
Sjogren’s syndrome; incidence; prevalence; classification criteria; autoantibodies; lymphoma
16.  Anti-chromatin antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus: a useful marker for lupus nephropathy 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2003;62(5):431-434.
Background: Anti-chromatin antibodies have recently been described in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and it has been suggested that their presence is associated with lupus nephritis.
Objective: To assess the prevalence and clinical associations of these antibodies in SLE.
Methods: The presence of anti-chromatin antibodies in 100 patients with SLE was investigated by an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). To determine the specificity of these antibodies, 100 patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, 30 with primary antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), 10 with systemic sclerosis, and 100 normal controls were also tested.
Results: Positive levels were detected in 69/100 (69%) patients with SLE. In contrast, they were found in only 8/100 (8%) of those with primary Sjögren's syndrome, in 1/10 (10%) with systemic sclerosis, in 2/30 (7%) with primary APS, and in none of the 100 healthy controls. Patients with anti-chromatin antibodies had a twofold higher prevalence of lupus nephropathy than those without these antibodies (58% v 29%, p<0.01). A significant correlation was found between the levels of anti-chromatin antibodies and disease activity score as measured by the European Consensus Lupus Activity Measurement (ECLAM; p=0.011).
Conclusions: The measurement of anti-chromatin antibodies appears to be a useful addition to the laboratory tests that can help in the diagnosis and treatment of SLE. These antibodies are both sensitive and specific for SLE, and are a useful marker for an increased risk of lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC1754546  PMID: 12695155
17.  Multiple clinical and biological autoimmune manifestations in 50 workers after occupational exposure to silica. 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1993;52(7):534-538.
OBJECTIVES--A self referred group of four workers from a factory producing scouring powder with a high silica content showed a surprisingly high number of features compatible with a connective tissue disease. Further subjects working at the same factory were subsequently studied to evaluate the relation between this exposure and the development of autoimmune processes. METHODS--A total of 50 subjects (44 women, six men; mean (SD) age 43.7 (5.5) years; mean duration of employment 6.1 years) underwent a prospective study including clinical history and physical examination, an immunobiological study, HLA typing, radiological and functional oesophageal and respiratory examination, ophthalmological examination, and isotopic testing of salivary glands. RESULTS--Symptoms of a systemic illness were present in 32 (64%) subjects: six with Sjögren's syndrome; five with the criteria for systemic sclerosis; three with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); five with an 'overlap syndrome'; and 13 with undifferentiated findings not meeting the criteria for a defined disease. Antinuclear antibodies were present in 36 (72%) subjects; four had antibodies to native DNA, including two subjects with SLE, one with systemic sclerosis associated with secondary Sjögren's syndrome, and one with overlap syndrome. Anticentromere antibodies were not detected. The frequency of HLA-DR3 was increased in the clinically affected subjects, but did not reach statistical significance. CONCLUSIONS--This descriptive study emphasises the high probability of workers occupationally exposed to silica developing a multiple spectrum of clinical and serological autoimmune manifestations.
PMCID: PMC1005094  PMID: 8394065
18.  Selective polyclonal increase of immunoglobulin G1 subclass: a link with Sjögren's syndrome. 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1990;49(6):373-377.
A selective polyclonal increase in IgG1 has been described previously in a group of patients with connective tissue disease; nine of the 16 patients had a prior diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A detailed clinical and serological study of 32 patients with this immunoglobulin abnormality has now been made. Most cases showed a characteristic autoantibody profile of antinuclear antibody, rheumatoid factor, and antibodies to Ro and La. Sjögren's syndrome was diagnosed as 'definite' in 16 cases and 'possible' in seven cases by Fox's criteria. The remainder had unclassified connective tissue disease (three), rheumatoid arthritis with dry eyes (two), SLE (one), scleroderma (two), and Raynaud's disease (one). Extraglandular features were invariably present in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome. The highest concentrations of IgG1 were found in patients with the shortest disease duration. Selective polyclonal increase of IgG1 should alert the doctor to the development of Sjögren's syndrome, usually with extraglandular disease and antibodies to Ro and La.
PMCID: PMC1004103  PMID: 2116774
19.  Antiphospholipid antibodies and HLA associations in primary Sjögren's syndrome. 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  1992;51(4):495-498.
Blood samples from 65 patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome were evaluated for the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies. Increased levels of antiphospholipid antibodies were found in 13 of 65 (20%) of patients. These antiphospholipid antibodies were predominantly of the IgA isotype, in contrast with the IgG isotype antiphospholipid antibodies found in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The presence of IgA antiphospholipid antibodies in the patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome was not significantly associated with arterial or vascular thrombosis, nor peripheral or central nervous system vasculitis. There was no association with laboratory determined features such as lupus anticoagulant or false positive results of the Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test. Oligonucleotide specific DNA amplification and hybridisation with allele specific probes was used to examine the HLA-D antigens occurring in this group of patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome. Of 13 patients with antiphospholipid antibodies, seven had the genotype HLA-DR2/DR3. However, compared with the whole group of 65 patients with Sjögren's syndrome, no increased occurrence of haplotype DR2 or DR3 was noted. These results suggest that gene interaction between DR2 and DR3 may play a part in the production of antiphospholipid antibodies in patients with Sjögren's syndrome. In contrast with patients with SLE, the IgA antiphospholipid antibodies in patients with Sjögren's syndrome are not risk factors for thrombosis or vasculitis. The presence of IgA antiphospholipid antibodies in patients with Sjögren's syndrome probably reflects its production at mucosal sites of inflammation and the absence of vasculopathy may be due to the inability of IgA antibodies to activate complement.
PMCID: PMC1004699  PMID: 1586247
20.  Intrinsic autoimmune capacities of hematopoietic cells from female New Zealand hybrid mice 
Genes and immunity  2014;15(3):153-161.
Most systemic autoimmune diseases occur more frequently in females than in males. This is particularly evident in Sjögren’s Syndrome, Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis (SLE) and thyroid autoimmunity, where the ratio of females to males ranges from 20:1 to 8:1. Our understanding of the etiology of SLE implies important roles for genetics, environmental factors and sex hormones, but the relative significance of each remains unknown. Using the New Zealand hybrid mouse model system of SLE we present here a new fetal liver chimera-based system in which we can segregate effects of immune system genes from that of sex hormones in vivo. We show that female hematopoietic cells express an intrinsic capacity to drive lupus-like disease in both male and female recipient mice, suggesting that this capacity is hormone independent. Particularly, only chimeric mice with a female hematopoietic system showed significantly increased numbers of germinal center B cells, memory B cells and plasma cells followed by a spontaneous loss of tolerance to nuclear components and hence elevated serum anti-nuclear autoantibodies. A protective effect of testosterone was noted with regards to disease onset, not disease incidence. Thus, genetic factors encoded within the female hematopoietic system can effectively drive lupus-like disease even in male recipients.
PMCID: PMC3999239  PMID: 24477163
Autoimmunity; genetic; sex hormone; hematopoiesis; autoantibody; interferon-alpha
21.  Selective Involvement of the Amygdala in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e499.
Antibodies specifically affect the amygdala in a mouse model of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The aim of our study was to investigate whether there is also specific involvement of the amygdala in human SLE.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed a group of 37 patients with neuropsychiatric SLE (NP-SLE), 21 patients with SLE, and a group of 12 healthy control participants with diffusion weighted imaging (DWI). In addition, in a subset of eight patients, plasma was available to determine their anti-NMDAR antibody status. From the structural magnetic resonance imaging data, the amygdala and the hippocampus were segmented, as well as the white and gray matter, and the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was retrieved. ADC values between controls, patients with SLE, and patients with NP-SLE were tested using analysis of variance with post-hoc Bonferroni correction. No differences were found in the gray or white matter segments. The average ADC in the amygdala of patients with NP-SLE and SLE (940 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.006 and 949 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.019, respectively) was lower than in healthy control participants (1152 × 10−6 mm2/s). Mann-Whitney analysis revealed that the average ADC in the amygdala of patients with anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 802 × 10−6 mm2/s) was lower (p = 0.029) than the average ADC of patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 979 × 10−6 mm2/s) and also lower (p = 0.001) than in healthy control participants.
This is the first study to our knowledge to observe damage in the amygdala in patients with SLE. Patients with SLE with anti-NMDAR antibodies had more severe damage in the amygdala compared to SLE patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies.
Patients with SLE who also had antibodies against the NMDA receptor had more severe damage in the amygdala as compared with patients with SLE without these antibodies.
Editors' Summary
The human body is continually attacked by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, but the immune system usually prevents these pathogens from causing disease. To be effective, the immune system has to respond rapidly to foreign antigens (bits of proteins that are unique to the pathogen) but ignore self-antigens. In autoimmune diseases, this ability to discriminate between self and nonself fails for unknown reasons, and the immune system begins to destroy human tissues. In the chronic autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), the immune system attacks the skin, joints, nervous system, and many other organs. Patients with SLE make numerous “autoantibodies” (antibodies are molecules made by the immune system that recognize and attack antigens; autoantibodies attack self-antigens). These autoantibodies start the attack on the body; then other parts of the immune system join in, causing inflammation and forming deposits of immune cells, both of which damage tissues. Common symptoms of SLE include skin rashes and arthritis, but some patients develop NP-SLE, a form of SLE that includes neuropsychiatric symptoms such as amnesia, dementia, mood disorders, strokes, and seizures. There is no cure for SLE, but mild cases are controlled with ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; severe cases are kept in check with corticosteroids and other powerful immunosuppressants.
Why Was This Study Done?
In most of the tissues affected by SLE, the damage done by autoantibodies and immune cells can be seen when the tissues are examined with a microscope. But there is little microscopic damage visible in the brains of patients with NP-SLE. More generally, it is unclear how or even whether the immune system affects mental functions and emotion. In this study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate whether there are any structural changes in the brains of patients with NP-SLE that could explain their neuropsychiatric symptoms. They have also examined whether any changes in the brain can be linked to the presence of autoantibodies that recognize a protein called the NMDA receptor (anti-NMDAR antibodies) that is present on brain cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used an MRI technique called diffusion weighted imaging to examine the brains of several patients with NP-SLE or SLE and the brains of several healthy individuals. Using this technique, it is possible to quantify the amount of structural damage in different regions of the brain. The researchers found no differences in most areas of the brain between the two groups of patients and the healthy controls. However, there were clear signs of damage in the amygdala (the part of the brain that regulates emotions and triggers responses to danger) in the patients with SLE or NP-SLE when compared to the control individuals. The researchers also found that the damage was more severe in the patients who had anti-NMDAR autoantibodies than in those that did not have these autoantibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that autoantibodies produced by patients with SLE specifically damage the amygdala, a discovery that helps to explain some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of this condition. Previous work has shown that the treatment of mice with anti-NMDAR antibodies and epinephrine, a stress hormone that causes leaks in the blood-brain barrier (antibodies can't usually get into the brain because of this barrier), results in damage to the amygdala and a deficient response to dangerous stimuli. The researchers suggest that a similar series of events might happen in SLE—patients often mention that a period of major stress precedes the development of symptoms. To provide stronger evidence for such a scenario, a detailed study of how stress relates to neuropsychiatric symptoms is needed. The damage to the amygdala (and the lack of damage elsewhere in the brain) and the possible association between brain damage and anti-NMDAR antibodies seen in this small study also need to be confirmed in more patients. Nevertheless, these findings provide an intriguing glimpse into the interplay between the immune system and the brain and into how stress might lead to physical damage in the brain.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
MedlinePlus encyclopedia pages on autoimmunity and on systemic lupus erythematosus
US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases booklet for patients with SLE
American College of Rheumatology information for patients on SLE
NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopedia pages on SLE
The Lupus Foundation of America information and support for patients with SLE
PMCID: PMC1702559  PMID: 17177602
22.  Autoantibodies predate the onset of systemic lupus erythematosus in northern Sweden 
Autoantibodies have a central role in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The presence of autoantibodies preceding disease onset by years has been reported both in patients with SLE and in those with rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting a gradual development of these diseases. Therefore, we sought to identify autoantibodies in a northern European population predating the onset of symptoms of SLE and their relationship to presenting symptoms.
The register of patients fulfilling the American College of Rheumatology criteria for SLE and with a given date of the onset of symptoms was coanalysed with the register of the Medical Biobank, Umeå, Sweden. Thirty-eight patients were identified as having donated blood samples prior to symptom onset. A nested case-control study (1:4) was performed with 152 age- and sex-matched controls identified from within the Medical Biobank register (Umeå, Sweden). Antibodies against anti-Sjögren's syndrome antigen A (Ro/SSA; 52 and 60 kDa), anti-Sjögren's syndrome antigen B, anti-Smith antibody, ribonucleoprotein, scleroderma, anti-histidyl-tRNA synthetase antibody, double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), centromere protein B and histones were analysed using the AtheNA Multi-Lyte ANA II Plus Test System on a Bio-Plex Array Reader (Luminex200). Antinuclear antibodies test II (ANA II) results were analysed using indirect immunofluorescence on human epidermal 2 cells at a sample dilution of 1:100.
Autoantibodies against nuclear antigens were detected a mean (±SD) of 5.6 ± 4.7 years before the onset of symptoms and 8.7 ± 5.6 years before diagnosis in 63% of the individuals who subsequently developed SLE. The sensitivity (45.7%) was highest for ANA II, with a specificity of 95%, followed by anti-dsDNA and anti-Ro/SSA antibodies, both with sensitivities of 20.0% at specificities of 98.7% and 97.4%, respectively. The odds ratios (ORs) for predicting disease were 18.13 for anti-dsDNA (95% confidence interval (95% CI), 3.58 to 91.84) and 11.5 (95% CI, 4.54 to 28.87) for ANA. Anti-Ro/SSA antibodies appeared first at a mean of 6.6 ± 2.5 years prior to symptom onset. The mean number of autoantibodies in prediseased individuals was 1.4, and after disease onset it was 3.1 (P < 0.0005). The time predating disease was shorter and the number of autoantibodies was greater in those individuals with serositis as a presenting symptom in comparison to those with arthritis and skin manifestations as the presenting symptoms.
Autoantibodies against nuclear antigens were detected in individuals who developed SLE several years before the onset of symptoms and diagnosis. The most sensitive autoantibodies were ANA, Ro/SSA and dsDNA, with the highest predictive OR being for anti-dsDNA antibodies. The first autoantibodies detected were anti-Ro/SSA.
PMCID: PMC3241374  PMID: 21342502
23.  Sicca symptoms and secondary Sjögren's syndrome in systemic lupus erythematosus: comparison with rheumatoid arthritis and correlation with disease variables 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2001;60(12):1103-1109.
OBJECTIVE—Firstly, to study the prevalence of ocular and oral sicca symptoms, reduced tear and saliva production, and the minimum frequency of secondary Sjögren's syndrome (sSS) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Secondly, to compare sicca symptoms and findings with those of matched patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and sicca symptoms with those in healthy controls. Finally, to study possible associations of clinical variables with sicca symptoms and sSS in SLE.
METHODS—Self reported sicca symptoms were recorded in 81 patients with SLE aged ⩽70, 81 matched patients with RA, and 81 matched healthy controls. Other study variables included Schirmer-I test (S1T), unstimulated whole saliva, health status measures (in SLE and RA), disease activity, accumulated organ damage, and serological markers (in SLE).
RESULTS—A significantly higher proportion of patients with SLE reported sicca symptoms than healthy controls. Further, a significantly higher proportion reported ocular sicca symptoms (43 and 21%, respectively) and had pathologically reduced S1T compared with RA (46 and 21%, respectively). No difference was seen in oral sicca symptoms and saliva production. In SLE, sicca symptoms were associated with fatigue, and sSS with anti-SSB or anti-SSA antibodies, or both.
CONCLUSIONS—An increased prevalence of sicca symptoms was found in patients with SLE compared with controls, and a higher prevalence of ocular sicca symptoms and reduced tear production in SLE compared with RA. Sicca problems should be considered in the care of patients with SLE, especially those with anti-SSB and/or anti-SSA antibodies who have sicca symptoms and fatigue.

PMCID: PMC1753445  PMID: 11709451
24.  Preclinical validation of salivary biomarkers for primary Sjögren’s syndrome 
Arthritis care & research  2010;62(11):1633-1638.
Sjögren’s syndrome (SS) is a systemic autoimmune disease with a variety of presenting symptoms which may delay its diagnosis. We previously discovered a number of candidate salivary biomarkers for primary SS (pSS) using both mass spectrometry and expression microarray analysis (Arthritis Rheumatism, 2007;56(11):3588-3600). In this study, we aim to verify these candidate biomarkers in independent patient populations and to evaluate their predictive values for pSS detection.
In total, 34 patients with pSS, 34 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and 34 healthy individuals were enrolled for the validation studies. Salivary protein biomarkers were measured using either Western blotting or ELISA, and the mRNA biomarkers were measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). Statistical analysis was performed using R2.9.
Three protein biomarkers, cathepsin D, alpha-enolase and beta-2-microglobulin (B2M), and three mRNA biomarkers, myeloid cell nuclear differentiation antigen (MNDA), Guanylate binding protein 2 (GIP2) and low affinity IIIb receptor for the Fc fragment of IgG (FCGR3B), were significantly elevated in patients with pSS compared to both SLE patients and healthy controls. The combination of three protein biomarkers, cathepsin D, alpha-enolase and B2M, yielded a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) value of 0.99 in distinguishing pSS from healthy controls. The combination of protein biomarkers B2M and two mRNA biomarkers, MNDA and GIP2, reached an ROC of 0.95 in discriminating pSS from SLE.
We have successfully verified a panel of protein and mRNA biomarkers that can discriminate pSS from both SLE and healthy controls. If further validated in pSS patients and those with sicca symptoms but no autoimmune disease, these biomarkers may lead to a simple yet highly discriminatory clinical tool for diagnosis of pSS.
PMCID: PMC2995446  PMID: 20617533
25.  Mutations in Complement Regulatory Proteins Predispose to Preeclampsia: A Genetic Analysis of the PROMISSE Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1001013.
Jane Salmon and colleagues studied 250 pregnant patients with SLE and/or antiphospholipid antibodies and found an association of risk variants in complement regulatory proteins in patients who developed preeclampsia, as well as in preeclampsia patients lacking autoimmune disease.
Pregnancy in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or antiphospholipid antibodies (APL Ab)—autoimmune conditions characterized by complement-mediated injury—is associated with increased risk of preeclampsia and miscarriage. Our previous studies in mice indicate that complement activation targeted to the placenta drives angiogenic imbalance and placental insufficiency.
Methods and Findings
We use PROMISSE, a prospective study of 250 pregnant patients with SLE and/or APL Ab, to test the hypothesis in humans that impaired capacity to limit complement activation predisposes to preeclampsia. We sequenced genes encoding three complement regulatory proteins—membrane cofactor protein (MCP), complement factor I (CFI), and complement factor H (CFH)—in 40 patients who had preeclampsia and found heterozygous mutations in seven (18%). Five of these patients had risk variants in MCP or CFI that were previously identified in atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease characterized by endothelial damage. One had a novel mutation in MCP that impairs regulation of C4b. These findings constitute, to our knowledge, the first genetic defects associated with preeclampsia in SLE and/or APL Ab. We confirmed the association of hypomorphic variants of MCP and CFI in a cohort of non-autoimmune preeclampsia patients in which five of 59 were heterozygous for mutations.
The presence of risk variants in complement regulatory proteins in patients with SLE and/or APL Ab who develop preeclampsia, as well as in preeclampsia patients lacking autoimmune disease, links complement activation to disease pathogenesis and suggests new targets for treatment of this important public health problem.
Study Registration NCT00198068
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies culminate in the birth of a healthy baby but, sadly, about a quarter of women lose their babies during pregnancy. A common pregnancy-related medical problem that threatens the life of both baby and mother is preeclampsia. Mild and severe preeclampsia affects up to 10% and 1%–2% of pregnancies, respectively. Preeclampsia occurs because of a problem with the function of the placenta, the organ that transfers nutrients and oxygen from mother to baby and removes waste products from the baby. Although preeclampsia begins early in pregnancy, it is diagnosed by the onset of high blood pressure (hypertension) and the appearance of protein in the urine (proteinuria) after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other warning signs include headaches and swelling of the hands and face. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, and labor is usually induced early to prevent eclampsia (seizures), stroke, liver and kidney failure, and breathing and blood vessel problems developing in the mother. Although delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy is not generally recommended, in cases of preeclampsia it may be too dangerous for both the baby and the mother to allow the pregnancy to continue. Unfortunately when severe preeclampsia occurs in the second trimester, babies weighing only 500 grams may be delivered and they may not survive.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, it is difficult to develop treatments for the condition or to find ways to prevent it. Many experts think that immune system problems—in particular, perturbations in complement activation—may be involved in preeclampsia. The complement system is a set of blood proteins that attacks invading bacteria and viruses. The activation of complement proteins is usually tightly regulated (overactivation of the complement system causes tissue damage) and, because preeclampsia may run in families, one hypothesis is that mutations (genetic changes) in complement regulatory proteins might predispose women to preeclampsia. In this study, the researchers test this hypothesis by sequencing genes encoding complement regulatory proteins in pregnant women with the autoimmune diseases systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and/or antiphospholipid antibodies (APL Ab) who developed preeclampsia. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy human cells instead of harmful invaders. Both SLE and APL Ab are characterized by complement-mediated tissue injury and are associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia and miscarriage.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Two hundred fifty women with SLE and/or APL Ab were enrolled into the PROMISSE study (a multi-center observational study to identify predictors of pregnancy outcome in women with SLE and/or APL Ab) when they were 12 weeks pregnant and followed through pregnancy. Thirty patients developed preeclampsia during the study and ten more had had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy. The researchers sequenced the genes for complement regulatory proteins: membrane cofactor protein (MCP), factor I, and factor H in these 40 patients. Seven women (18%) had mutations in one copy of one of these genes (there are two copies of most genes in human cells). Five mutations were alterations in MCP or factor I that are gene variants that increase the risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease characterized by blood vessel damage. The sixth mutation was a new MCP mutation that impaired MCP's ability to regulate complement component C4b. The final mutation was a factor H mutation that did not have any obvious functional effect. No mutations in complement regulatory proteins were found in 34 matched participants in PROMISSE without preeclampsia but, among a group of non-autoimmune women who developed preeclampsia during pregnancy, 10% had mutations in MCP or factor I.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify MCP and factor I mutations as genetic defects associated with preeclampsia in pregnant women with SLE and/or APL Ab. Importantly, they also reveal an association between similar mutations and preeclampsia in women without any underlying autoimmune disease. Taken together with evidence from previous animal experiments, these findings suggest that dysregulation of complement activation is involved in the development of preeclampsia. Although further studies are needed to confirm and extend these findings, these results suggest that proteins involved in the regulation of complement activation could be new targets for the treatment of preeclampsia and raise the possibility that tests could be developed to identify women at risk of developing preeclampsia.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Tommy's, a UK charity that funds scientific research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth, has information on preeclampsia
The March of Dimes Foundation, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, has information on preeclampsia
The UK National Health Services Choices website also has information about preeclampsia
Wikipedia has pages on the complement system, on autoimmune disease, and on preeclampsia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information on the PROMISSE study is available
PMCID: PMC3062534  PMID: 21445332

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