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1.  Understanding lupus nephritis: diagnosis, management, and treatment options 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) predominantly affects women in their reproductive years. Renal disease (glomerulonephritis) is one of the most frequent and serious manifestations of SLE. Of the various histological types of lupus glomerulonephritis, diffuse proliferative nephritis carries the worst prognosis. Combined with high-dose prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) has emerged as a first-line immunosuppressive treatment, although data regarding the efficacy of MMF on the long-term preservation of renal function are forthcoming. Cyclophosphamide is reserved for more severe forms of lupus nephritis, such as crescentic glomerulonephritis with rapidly deteriorating renal function, patients with significant renal function impairment at presentation, and refractory renal disease. Evidence for the calcineurin inhibitors in the treatment of lupus nephritis is weaker, and it concerns patients who are intolerant or recalcitrant to other agents. While further controlled trials are mandatory, B cell modulation therapies, such as rituximab, belimumab and epratuzumab are confined to refractory disease. Non-immunosuppressive measures, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, vigorous blood pressure control, prevention and treatment of hyperlipidemia and osteoporosis, are equally important.
PMCID: PMC3367406  PMID: 22675266
lupus; nephritis; nephropathy; glomerulonephritis; treatment; therapy; women
2.  Treatment of young patients with lupus nephritis using calcineurin inhibitors 
World Journal of Nephrology  2012;1(6):177-183.
Recent advances in the management of lupus nephritis, together with earlier renal biopsy and selective use of aggressive immunosuppressive therapy, have contributed to a favorable outcome in children and adolescents with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Nevertheless, we believe that a more effective and less toxic treatment is needed to attain an optimal control of the activity of lupus nephritis. Recent published papers and our experiences regarding treatment of young patients with lupus nephritis using calcineurin inhibitors are reviewed. Although it has been reported that intermittent monthly pulses of intravenous cyclophosphamide (IVCY) are effective for preserving renal function in adult patients, CPA is a potent immunosuppressive agent that induces severe toxicity, including myelo- and gonadal toxicity, and increases the risk of secondary malignancy. Thus, treatment for controlling lupus nephritis activity, especially in children and adolescents, remains challenging. Cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus (Tac) are T-cell-specific calcineurin inhibitors that prevent the activation of helper T cells, thereby inhibiting the transcription of the early activation genes of interleukin (IL)-2 and suppressing T cell-induced activation of tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-1β and IL-6. Therefore, both drugs, which we believe may be less cytotoxic, are attractive therapeutic options for young patients with lupus nephritis. Recently, a multidrug regimen of prednisolone (PDN), Tac, and mycophenolate mofetile (MMF) has been found effective and relatively safe in adult lupus nephritis. Since the mechanisms of action of MMF and Tac are probably complementary, multidrug therapy for lupus nephritis may be useful. We propose as an alternative to IVCY, a multidrug therapy with mizoribine, which acts very similarly to MMF, and Tac, which has a different mode of action, combined with PDN for pediatric-onset lupus nephritis. We also believe that a multidrug therapy including CsA and Tac may be an attractive option for young patients with SLE and lupus nephritis
PMCID: PMC3782217  PMID: 24175257
Calcineurin inhibitor; Cyclosporine A; Lupus nephritis; Multidrug therapy; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Tacrolimus
3.  Mycophenolate mofetil as maintenance therapy for proliferative lupus nephritis: a long-term observational prospective study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(6):R208.
While the role of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in the management of lupus nephritis has been increasingly recognized, limited information is available regarding its efficacy and safety as a long-term maintenance treatment. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety profile of MMF as maintenance therapy for proliferative lupus nephritis.
Thirty-three consecutive patients with proliferative lupus nephritis received induction therapy with five to seven monthly intravenous (iv) pulses of cyclophosphamide (CYC) plus iv steroids followed by oral MMF 2 g/day as maintenance therapy for a median time of 29 months (range 9 to 71 months). Primary end points were the achievement of renal remission, complete renal remission, disease remission - renal and extrarenal -, the occurrence of renal relapse, chronic renal failure and death. Secondary end points were the extrarenal disease activity and drug adverse events. The clinical and laboratory parameters were compared during follow-up by means of nonparametric statistical tests. Time to event analysis was performed according to the Kaplan-Meier method.
A significant improvement of all renal parameters was observed at the end of the induction treatment and at the latest follow-up compared to baseline. The rate of patients achieving renal remission until the end of follow-up was 73%, whereas that of complete renal remission was 58%. The median survival times in the Kaplan-Meier analyses were 7 and 16 months, respectively. Remission was maintained in all but four (12%) patients who relapsed within 19 to 39 months after initial response. At the end of follow-up, 51% of the patients had reached disease remission. The median survival time of disease remission was 18 months. Extrarenal manifestations were well controlled in most of the patients. In one patient receiving MMF, extrarenal activity led to treatment discontinuation. Non life-threatening drug adverse events developed in 18 patients (58%) and included infections, amenorrhea, myelotoxicity, gastrointestinal complications, hypercholesterolemia, alopecia and drug intolerance. None of the patients developed chronic renal insufficiency or died from any cause.
MMF appeared to be efficacious and safe as maintenance treatment for proliferative lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3046515  PMID: 21059275
4.  Successful Treatment with Mycophenolate Mofetil and Tacrolimus in Juvenile Severe Lupus Nephritis 
Case Reports in Pediatrics  2015;2015:651803.
Lupus nephritis (LN) of juvenile onset often has severe disease presentation. Despite aggressive induction therapy, up to 20% of patients with LN are resistant to initial therapy and up to 44% suffer a renal relapse. However, there is no consensus on an appropriate therapeutic regimen for refractory LN. We report a 13-year-old girl with recurrent LN who was not taking her medications. At age of 11 years, she was diagnosed with LN classified as International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) class IV G (A) + V. She was treated with prednisolone and MMF after nine methylprednisolone pulses. Nineteen months later, she was admitted to the hospital with generalized edema. Her symptoms were nephrotic syndrome and acute renal dysfunction. She received three methylprednisolone pulses for 3 days, followed by oral prednisolone and MMF. Twenty-seven days after the three methylprednisolone pulses, her acute renal dysfunction was improved, but the nephrotic syndrome was not improved. A second biopsy showed diffuse lupus nephritis classified as the predominant finding of ISN/RPS class V. We added tacrolimus to the MMF. Four months after adding tacrolimus, the nephrotic syndrome improved. We conclude that adding tacrolimus to the treatment regimen for LN resistant to MMF is effective.
PMCID: PMC4346693  PMID: 25785217
5.  Characteristics of azathioprine use and cessation in a longitudinal lupus cohort 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2015;2(1):e000105.
Guidelines for azathioprine (AZA) use in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), including indications for initiation and cessation, are lacking. Clinical decision-making could be improved if reasons for cessation of AZA treatment were standardised.
We determined the characteristics of AZA use in a cohort of patients with SLE and evaluated reasons for AZA cessation. Patients with SLE in a single centre had longitudinal recording of disease activity (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index 2000 (SLEDAI)-2k), laboratory investigations and treatment from 2007 to 2012.
Of 183 patients studied, 67 used AZA on at least one occasion. There was no significant difference between AZA users and non-users in age or American College of Rheumatology criteria. Compared with those not treated with AZA, patients treated with AZA had higher disease activity (time-adjusted mean SLEDAI 5.2±0.3 vs 3.8±0.3, p=0.0028) and damage (Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC)-SDI 1.6±0.3 vs 1.2±0.1, p=0.0445), and were more likely to have a positive dsDNA (p=0.0130) and receive glucocorticoids (p<0.0001). AZA therapy was ceased in 30/67 (45%) patients. The predominant reasons for cessation were treatment de-escalation 14 (47%), treatment failure 12 (40%) and toxicity 3 (10%). AZA was switched to mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in 9/12 (75%) of treatment failures, and this choice was strongly associated with active lupus nephritis.
AZA toxicity was uncommon, and many patients ceased therapy in the context of treatment de-escalation. However, the frequent development of active lupus nephritis requiring MMF suggests the need to distinguish refractoriness, under-treatment and non-adherence to AZA in patients with SLE. These findings suggest that future studies of AZA metabolite measurement could prove valuable in the management of SLE.
PMCID: PMC4548066  PMID: 26322237
Treatment; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; DMARDs (synthetic); Disease Activity
6.  Autoantigen microarrays reveal autoantibodies associated with proliferative nephritis and active disease in pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus 
Pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus (pSLE) patients often initially present with more active and severe disease than adults, including a higher frequency of lupus nephritis. Specific autoantibodies, including anti-C1q, anti-DNA and anti-alpha-actinin, have been associated with kidney involvement in SLE, and DNA antibodies are capable of initiating early-stage lupus nephritis in severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice. Over 100 different autoantibodies have been described in SLE patients, highlighting the need for comprehensive autoantibody profiling. Knowledge of the antibodies associated with pSLE and proliferative nephritis will increase the understanding of SLE pathogenesis, and may aid in monitoring patients for renal flare.
We used autoantigen microarrays composed of 140 recombinant or purified antigens to compare the serum autoantibody profiles of new-onset pSLE patients (n = 45) to healthy controls (n = 17). We also compared pSLE patients with biopsy-confirmed class III or IV proliferative nephritis (n = 23) and without significant renal involvement (n = 18). We performed ELISA with selected autoantigens to validate the microarray findings. We created a multiple logistic regression model, based on the ELISA and clinical information, to predict whether a patient had proliferative nephritis, and used a validation cohort (n = 23) and longitudinal samples (88 patient visits) to test its accuracy.
Fifty autoantibodies were at significantly higher levels in the sera of pSLE patients compared to healthy controls, including anti-B cell-activating factor (BAFF). High levels of anti-BAFF were associated with active disease. Thirteen serum autoantibodies were present at significantly higher levels in pSLE patients with proliferative nephritis than those without, and we confirmed five autoantigens (dsDNA, C1q, collagens IV and X and aggrecan) by ELISA. Our model, based on ELISA measurements and clinical variables, correctly identified patients with proliferative nephritis with 91 % accuracy.
Autoantigen microarrays are an ideal platform for identifying autoantibodies associated with both pSLE and specific clinical manifestations of pSLE. Using multiple regression analysis to integrate autoantibody and clinical data permits accurate prediction of clinical manifestations with complex etiologies in pSLE.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0682-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4493823  PMID: 26081107
7.  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
8.  Juvenile systemic lupus erythematosus onset patterns in Vietnamese children: a descriptive study of 45 children 
Incidence and disease pattern of childhood-onset SLE is reported to differ among ethnic groups.
To describe disease pattern and 6 month follow-up in a referral based cohort of 45 Vietnamese children with SLE. Forty-five children who were subsequently diagnosed to have systemic lupus erythematosus (f/m = 4/1) were referred to the Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital No.1 during a 12-month period in 2009.
The mean age at diagnosis was 12.8 years (SD = 2.5). Thirty-seven (82%) fulfilled criteria for lupus nephritis (LN). At diagnosis, impressively high SLEDAI and ECLAM scores were recorded (mean and SD), 23.8 (11.6) and 6 (2.3), respectively. The mean renal SLEDAI score was 8.2. The mean haemoglobin (g/dL, SD) was 8.5 (2.1). The Coombs test was positive in 30 of 36 children (83%). The mean plasma creatinine was 0.98 (SD 1.2) and mean Westergren sedimentation rate was 83.6 (SD 37.4). The patient age at diagnosis was positively correlated to the SLEDAI (p = 0.034) and ECLAM (p = 0.022). At 6 month follow-up of the 45 children, 15 patients were in complete remission, 5 were in partial remission, 6 had stable disease, 3 had relapsed, 3 had evolving disease, 2 had ongoing resistant disease and 4 had died. Seven patients were lost to follow-up. A second renal biopsy showed an improved ISN class in 13 of 15; in 2 cases the ISN class remained unchanged.
Forty-five Vietnamese children with SLE were referred to Ho Chi Minh Children’s Hospital No. 1 during a16 month period from 2008–2009. These patients had a strikingly high prevalence of Coombs positive anaemia, a high prevalence of lupus nephritis, and very high SLEDAI and ECLAM scores at the time of diagnosis. While there may be referral biases, our Vietnamese SLE patients appear to have severe disease upon presentation but do reasonably well in the short-term.
PMCID: PMC3551686  PMID: 23164451
9.  Successful Treatment of Refractory Thrombocytopenia with Mycophenolate Mofetil in a Patient with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2005;20(5):883-885.
While mild thrombocytopenia in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is frequently seen in the context of active disease, severe thrombocytopenia causing significant bleeding is not that common. Corticosteroids are considered the first line therapy for severe thrombocytopenia in SLE. Second-line therapeutic agents or splenectomy have been reported to be effective for patients who fail to respond to steroids or those who require moderate doses of steroids to maintain the platelet counts. Recent randomized controlled studies have shown that mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) is an efficacious and safe therapeutic agent in patients with proliferative forms of lupus nephritis. However, little information has been available regarding the role of MMF in the treatment of immune thrombocytopenia complicated with SLE. Hereby I describe a patient with SLE in whom thrombocytopenia was refractory to corticosteroids, intermittent intravenous cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, cyclosporine, intravenous gamma globulin, danazol, and splenectomy, and whose platelet counts eventually normalized during therapy with MMF. In this patient, thrombocytopenia is initially thought to be associated with active SLE involving major organ. However, after immunosuppressive agents were given, the refractory nature of thrombocytopenia seems to be an isolated phenomenon, independently of SLE activity.
PMCID: PMC2779290  PMID: 16224167
Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic; Thrombocytopenia; mycophenolate mofetiI
10.  A Treatment Algorithm for Children with Lupus Nephritis to Prevent Developing Renal Failure 
Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common complication of systemic lupus erythematosus, which if untreated can lead to the end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Early diagnosis and adequate treatment of lupus nephritis (LN) is critical to prevent the chronic kidney disease incidence and to reduce the development of ESRD. The treatment of LN has changed significantly over the past decade. In patients with active proliferative LN (Classes III and IV) intravenous methylprednisolone 1 g/m2/day for 1-3 days then prednisone 0.5-1.0 mg/kg/day, tapered to <0.5 mg/kg/day after 10-12 weeks of treatment plus mycophenolate mofetile (MMF) 1.2 g/m2/day for 6 months followed by maintenance lower doses of MMF 1-2 g/day or azathioprine (AZA) 2 mg/kg/day for 3 years have proven to be efficacy and less toxic than cyclophosphamide (CYC) therapy. Patients with membranous LN (Class V) plus diffuse or local proliferative LN (Class III and Class IV) should receive either the standard 6 monthly pulses of CYC (0.5-1 g/m2/month) then every 3rd month or to a shorter treatment course consisting of 0.5 g/m2 IV CYC every 2 weeks for six doses (total dose 3 g) followed by maintenance therapy with daily AZA (2 mg/kg/day) or MMF (0.6 g/m2/day) for 3 years. Combination of MMF plus rituximab or MMF plus calcineurin inhibitors may be an effective co-therapy for those refractory to induction or maintenance therapies. This report introduces a new treatment algorithm to prevent the development of ESRD in children with LN.
PMCID: PMC4018632  PMID: 24829707
End-stage renal disease; lupus; nephritis; treatment algorithm
11.  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
12.  Childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus. 
OBJECTIVES: To describe the initial clinicolaboratory manifestations and short-term outcome in a series of Nigerian children with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). METHODS: A nonrandomized prospective study of consecutive cases of childhood-onset SLE. Baseline and follow-up clinicolaboratory data were collected and analyzed. Each patient was followed up for 12 months. RESULTS: Eleven children were studied. There were seven girls (F:M, 1.75). Mean ages at lupus onset and diagnosis were 10.0 +/- 2.53 years and 11.2 +/- 2.53 years, respectively. Mean time at onset of renal disease following SLE symptoms onset was 1.22 +/- 0.93 years. All cases were misdiagnosed prior to presentation; diagnosis was delayed in nine patients. Lupus activity was mild, moderate and severe in two, five and four patients, respectively. Hypertension (n = 5), nephrotic syndrome (n = 6), microerythrocyturia (n = 6) and acute renal failure (n = 7) were associated morbidities. Of the 27 presenting clinical features, 17 were nondiagnostic, while 10 were diagnostic. Fever (n = 9) was a major nondiagnostic symptom; major diagnostic manifestations were lupus nephritis (n = 11), arthritis (n = 10) and serositis (n = 7). Catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome was diagnosed in three. The glomerular lesions were nonproliferative (n = 1), focal (n = 3) and diffuse (n = 7) proliferative lupus nephritis. Complete remission rate at end-point was 71.4%. Fourteen percent of the patients relapsed. Renal survival and mortality rates were 86.0% and 30.0%, respectively. CONCLUSION: In this study, severe renal and extrarenal comorbidities were common; mortality rate was also high. High frequency of misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis were probably responsible for these.
PMCID: PMC2574347  PMID: 17668644
13.  Serum Thiols as a Biomarker of Disease Activity in Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0119947.
Lupus Nephritis (LN) develops in more than half of the Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE) patients. However, lack of reliable, specific biomarkers for LN hampers clinical management of patients and impedes development of new therapeutics. The goal of this study was to investigate whether oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with SLE is predictive of renal pathology. Serum biochemical and oxidative stress markers were measured in patients with inactive lupus, active lupus with and without nephritis and compared to healthy control group. To assess the predictive performance of biomarkers, Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curves were constructed and cut-offs were used to identify SLE patients with nephritis. We observed an increased oxidative stress response in all SLE patients compared to healthy controls. Among the several biomarkers tested, serum thiols had a significant inverse association with SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI). Interestingly, thiols were able too aptly differentiate between SLE patients with and without renal pathology, and serum thiol levels were not affected by immunosuppressive drug therapy. The decreased thiols in SLE correlated significantly with serum creatinine and serum C3 levels. Further retrospective evaluation using serum creatinine or C3 levels in combination with thiol’s cutoff values from ROC analysis, we could positively predict chronicity of renal pathology in SLE patients. In summary, serum thiols emerge as an inexpensive and reliable indicator of LN, which may not only help in early identification of renal pathology but also aid in the therapeutic management of the disease, in developing countries with resource poor settings.
PMCID: PMC4370429  PMID: 25799079
14.  Renal Dnase1 Enzyme Activity and Protein Expression Is Selectively Shut Down in Murine and Human Membranoproliferative Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12096.
Deposition of chromatin-IgG complexes within glomerular membranes is a key event in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis. We recently reported an acquired loss of renal Dnase1 expression linked to transformation from mild to severe membranoproliferative lupus nephritis in (NZBxNZW)F1 mice. As this may represent a basic mechanism in the progression of lupus nephritis, several aspects of Dnase1 expression in lupus nephritis were analyzed.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Total nuclease activity and Dnase1 expression and activity was evaluated using in situ and in vitro analyses of kidneys and sera from (NZBxNZW)F1 mice of different ages, and from age-matched healthy controls. Immunofluorescence staining for Dnase1 was performed on kidney biopsies from (NZBxNZW)F1 mice as well as from human SLE patients and controls. Reduced serum Dnase1 activity was observed in both mesangial and end-stage lupus nephritis. A selective reduction in renal Dnase1 activity was seen in mice with massive deposition of chromatin-containing immune complexes in glomerular capillary walls. Mice with mild mesangial nephritis showed normal renal Dnase1 activity. Similar differences were seen when comparing human kidneys with severe and mild lupus nephritis. Dnase1 was diffusely expressed within the kidney in normal and mildly affected kidneys, whereas upon progression towards end-stage renal disease, Dnase1 was down-regulated in all renal compartments. This demonstrates that the changes associated with development of severe nephritis in the murine model are also relevant to human lupus nephritis.
Reduction in renal Dnase1 expression and activity is limited to mice and SLE patients with signs of membranoproliferative nephritis, and may be a critical event in the development of severe forms of lupus nephritis. Reduced Dnase1 activity reflects loss in the expression of the protein and not inhibition of enzyme activity.
PMCID: PMC2938370  PMID: 20856893
15.  Association of Serum Nitrate and Nitrite Levels With Longitudinal Assessments of Disease Activity and Damage in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(1):263-272.
Reactive intermediate production is an essential component of the innate immune response that is induced during disease activity in murine lupus. This study was undertaken to determine whether a marker of systemic nitric oxide (NO) production correlates with prospectively studied disease activity in human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis patients.
Eighty-three SLE patients and 40 control subjects were studied longitudinally. The SLE group included 23 patients with lupus nephritis documented by renal biopsy and 26 with a history of lupus nephritis. During each visit, following a 24-hour low-nitrate diet, traditional markers of disease activity and damage were determined. Serum nitrate plus nitrite (NOx) levels were determined by chemiluminescence detection.
NOx levels were higher in SLE patients than in controls during the first visit. In univariate longitudinal analyses, NOx levels were associated with SLE Disease Activity Index scores. In multivariate analyses, NOx levels were associated with serum levels of C3 and creatinine and the urinary protein:creatinine ratio. Among patients with lupus nephritis, those with proliferative lesions had higher NOx levels, and higher NOx levels were associated with accumulation of renal damage and lack of response to therapy.
This is the first study to prospectively demonstrate longitudinal associations between serum NOx levels and markers of SLE and lupus nephritis disease activity. The more pronounced association with proliferative lupus nephritis and with longitudinal response to lupus nephritis therapy provides a rationale for the study of reactive intermediates as biomarkers of disease activity and therapeutic targets in proliferative lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2733831  PMID: 18163495
16.  Identification of urinary metabolites that distinguish membranous lupus nephritis from proliferative lupus nephritis and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R199.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease, and kidney involvement with SLE, a.k.a. lupus nephritis (LN), is a frequent and severe complication of SLE that increases patient morbidity and mortality. About 50% of patients with SLE encounter renal abnormalities which, if left untreated, can lead to end-stage renal disease. Kidney biopsy is considered the criterion standard for diagnosis and staging of LN using the International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) classification, which was developed to help predict renal outcomes and assist with medical decision-making. However, kidney biopsy-based classification of LN is highly invasive and impractical for real-time monitoring of LN status. Here, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy-based metabolic profiling was used to identify urinary metabolites that discriminated between proliferative and pure membranous LN as defined by the ISN/RPS classification, and between LN and primary focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).
Metabolic profiling was conducted using urine samples of patients with proliferative LN without membranous features (Class III/IV; n = 7) or pure membranous LN (Class V; n = 7). Patients with primary FSGS and proteinuria (n = 10) served as disease controls. For each patient, demographic information and clinical data was obtained and a random urine sample collected to measure NMR spectra. Data and sample collection for patients with LN occurred around the time of kidney biopsy. Metabolic profiling analysis was done by visual inspection and principal component analysis.
Urinary citrate levels were 8-fold lower in Class V LN compared to Class III/IV patients, who had normal levels of urinary citrate (P < 0.05). Class III/IV LN patients had > 10-fold lower levels of urinary taurine compared to Class V patients, who had mostly normal levels (P < 0.01). Class V LN patients had normal urinary hippurate levels compared to FSGS patients, who completely lacked urinary hippurate (P < 0.001).
This pilot study indicated differences in urinary metabolites between proliferative LN and pure membranous LN patients, and between LN and FSGS patients. If confirmed in larger studies, these urine metabolites may serve as biomarkers to help discriminate between different classes of LN, and between LN and FSGS.
PMCID: PMC3334650  PMID: 22152586
17.  Association of STAT4 Polymorphism with Severe Renal Insufficiency in Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84450.
Lupus nephritis is a cause of significant morbidity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and its genetic background has not been completely clarified. The aim of this investigation was to analyze single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for association with lupus nephritis, its severe form proliferative nephritis and renal outcome, in two Swedish cohorts. Cohort I (n = 567 SLE cases, n =  512 controls) was previously genotyped for 5676 SNPs and cohort II (n = 145 SLE cases, n = 619 controls) was genotyped for SNPs in STAT4, IRF5, TNIP1 and BLK.
Case-control and case-only association analyses for patients with lupus nephritis, proliferative nephritis and severe renal insufficiency were performed. In the case-control analysis of cohort I, four highly linked SNPs in STAT4 were associated with lupus nephritis with genome wide significance with p = 3.7×10−9, OR 2.20 for the best SNP rs11889341. Strong signals of association between IRF5 and an HLA-DR3 SNP marker were also detected in the lupus nephritis case versus healthy control analysis (p <0.0001). An additional six genes showed an association with lupus nephritis with p <0.001 (PMS2, TNIP1, CARD11, ITGAM, BLK and IRAK1). In the case-only meta-analysis of the two cohorts, the STAT4 SNP rs7582694 was associated with severe renal insufficiency with p  = 1.6×10−3 and OR 2.22. We conclude that genetic variations in STAT4 predispose to lupus nephritis and a worse outcome with severe renal insufficiency.
PMCID: PMC3873995  PMID: 24386384
18.  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
19.  Urinary Transforming Growth Factor-beta 1 as a marker of response to immunosuppressive treatment, in patients with crescentic nephritis 
BMC Nephrology  2005;6:16.
Crescentic nephritis is characterized by formation of cellular crescents that soon become fibrotic and result in irreversible damage, unless an effective immunosuppressive therapy is rapidly commenced. TGF-β1 is involved in the development of crescents through various pathways. The aim of this study was to identify whether the determination of urinary TGF-β1 levels in patients with crescentic nephritis could be used as a marker of response to treatment.
Fifteen patients with crescentic nephritis were included in the study. The renal expression of TGF-β1 was estimated in biopsy sections by immunohistochemistry and urinary TGF-β1 levels were determined by quantitative sandwich enzyme immunoassay (EIA). TGF-β1 levels were determined at the time of renal biopsy, before the initiation of immunosuppressive treatment (corticosteroids, cyclophosphamide and plasma exchange). Twelve patients with other types of proliferative glomerulonephritis and ten healthy subjects were used as controls.
Improvement of renal function with immunosuppressive therapy was observed in 6 and stabilization in 4 patients (serum creatinine from 3.2 ± 1.5 to 1.4 ± 0.1 mg/dl and from 4.4 ± 1.2 to 4.1 ± 0.6 mg/dl, respectively). In 5 patients, with severe impairment of renal function who started on dialysis, no improvement was noted. The main histological feature differentiating these 5 patients from others with improved or stabilized renal function was the percentage patients with poor response to treatment were the percentage of glomeruli with crescents and the presence of ruptured Bowman's capsule and glomerular necrosis. Urinary TGF-β1 levels were significantly higher in patients who showed no improvement of renal function with immunosuppressive therapy (930 ± 126 ng/24 h vs. 376 ± 84 ng/24 h, p < 0.01). TGF-β1 was identified in crescents and tubular epithelial cells, whereas a significant correlation of TGF-β1 immunostaining with the presence of fibrocellular cresents was observed (r = 0.531, p < 0,05).
Increased TGF-β1 renal expression and urinary excretion that is related to the response to immunosuppressive therapy was observed in patients with crescentic nephritis. Evaluation of urinary TGF-β1 levels may be proved a useful marker of clinical outcome in patients with crescentic nephritis.
PMCID: PMC1327665  PMID: 16367998
20.  The development of membranous lupus nephritis during treatment with mycophenolate mofetil for proliferative renal disease 
NDT Plus  2010;3(4):346-348.
The transformation of lupus nephritis from one histologic pattern to another is well described. We report a case of a patient who initially presented with diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis and was treated with prednisone and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF). She initially responded well to therapy, but later developed high-grade proteinuria while still on MMF and low-dose steroids. A repeat biopsy performed after the increase in proteinuria demonstrated that she had focal proliferative disease but that she had also developed membranous lupus nephritis. Our case is unique in that we report a patient who developed membranous lupus nephritis while receiving MMF.
PMCID: PMC4421507  PMID: 25949427
membranous lupus nephritis; mycophenolate mofetil; transformation
21.  Multicenter Retrospective Analysis of the Effectiveness and Safety of Rituximab in Korean Patients with Refractory Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Autoimmune Diseases  2012;2012:565039.
Objective. Although two recent randomized placebo-controlled trials of rituximab (RTX) failed to demonstrate efficacy in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), clinicians continue to use off-label RTX for cases refractory to current treatments. We evaluated the effectiveness and safety of rituximab for patients with refractory SLE in Korea. Methods. We retrospectively analyzed multicenter patients treated with RTX in Korea. Results. 39 SLE patients treated with RTX were included in the following manner: lupus nephritis 43.6%, hematologic 33.3%, arthritis 7.8%, myositis 7.8%, and others 7.7%. All patients had responded poorly to at least one conventional immunosuppressive agent (mean 2.5 ± 1.1, cyclophosphamide 43.6%, mycophenolate mofetil 48.7%, and other drugs) before RTX. Clinical improvements (complete or partial remission) occurred in patients with renal disease, hematologic disease, arthritis, myositis, and other manifestations at 6 months after RTX. The SLEDAI score was significantly decreased from 10.8 ± 7.1 at baseline to 6.7 ± 4.0 at 6 months, 6.2 ± 4.1 at 12 months, and 5.5 ± 3.6 at 24 months after RTX (P < 0.05). Among 28 clinical responders, 4 patients experienced a relapse of disease at 25 ± 4 months. Infections were noted in 3 patients (7.7%). Conclusion. RTX could be an effective and relatively safe therapeutic option in patients with severe refractory SLE until novel B-cell depletion therapy is available.
PMCID: PMC3523406  PMID: 23304457
22.  Mycophenolate Mofetil in the Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
The Eurasian Journal of Medicine  2009;41(3):180-185.
Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) is an immunosuppressive agent that has been shown to be effective in transplant patients. It is also efficacious in the management of lupus nephritis and useful in the treatment of autoimmune conditions because its mechanisms of action target T- and B- lymphocytes, leading to suppression of the cell-mediated immune response and antibody formation. MMF has been used successfully to treat immune-mediated conditions like myasthenia gravis, autoimmune hepatitis and immune cytopenias. However, the conditions for its optimal use for non-renal manifestations (e.g., hematological, neuropsychiatric, myocardial, pulmonary or cutaneous symptoms) in lupus patients are unclear. There have yet to be any randomized, controlled trials to guide the optimal dose and duration of MMF treatment in such situations. MMF is well tolerated and safe to use, although there are reports of serious adverse effects including urticaria, myopathy, Epstein-Barr virus-associated B-cell lymphoma, cytomegalovirus infection and disseminated varicella zoster infection. Immunosuppressive treatment with MMF and supportive care over the past few decades have led to improved clinical outcomes in patients with severe lupus nephritis. A favorable long-term prognosis can be ensured provided that effective treatment is instituted early, before irreversible renal parenchymal damage occurs. Another area of concern for patients is the increased cost of long-term MMF use.
PMCID: PMC4261281  PMID: 25610099
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Mycophenolate mofetil; Treatment
23.  Rituximab therapy for juvenile-onset systemic lupus erythematosus 
Rituximab (RTX), an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, has been proposed for use in the therapy of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We present the initial long-term experience of the safety and efficacy of rituximab for treatment of SLE in children. Eighteen patients (mean age 14 ± 3 years) with severe SLE were treated with rituximab after demonstrating resistance or toxicity to conventional regimens. There was a predominance of female (16/18) and ethnic African (13/18) patients. All had lupus nephritis [World Health Organization (WHO) classes 3–5] and systemic manifestations of vasculitis. Clinical disease activity of the SLE was scored with the SLE-disease activity index 2K (SLEDAI-2K). Patients were followed-up for an average of 3.0 ± 1.3 years (range 0.5 to 4.8 years). B-cell depletion occurred within 2 weeks in all patients and persisted for up to 1 year in some. Clinical activity scores, double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies, renal function and proteinuria [urine protein to creatinine ratio (Upr/cr)] improved in 93% of the patients. Five patients required multiple courses of RTX for relapse, with B-cell repopulation. One died of infectious endocarditis related to severe immunosuppression. In conclusion, our data support the efficacy of rituximab as adjunctive treatment for SLE in children. Although rituximab was well tolerated by the majority of patients, randomized controlled trials are required to establish its long-term safety and efficacy.
PMCID: PMC2214826  PMID: 18097688
Rituximab; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Children
24.  Immunohistochemical study of the human glomerular C3b receptor in normal kidney and in seventy-five cases of renal diseases: loss of C3b receptor antigen in focal hyalinosis and in proliferative nephritis of systemic lupus erythematosus. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1982;69(4):900-912.
The presence and distribution of C3b receptors in normal human kidneys and in biopsies from 75 patients with renal disease were investigated by immunohistochemical techniques using monospecific rabbit antibody to the 205,000-mol wt glycoprotein that is the C3b receptor of human peripheral blood cells. Anti-C3b receptor bound exclusively to podocytes in normal renal cortex, and was homogeneously distributed on the plasma membrane of these cells. Biosynthesis of the receptor by the podocyte was suggested by the presence of antigenic activity in the Golgi apparatus. Although occupancy of receptor sites following the interaction of kidney sections with aggregated IgG preincubated with normal serum inhibited binding to glomeruli of C3b coated cells, the C3b receptor remained accessible to anti-C3b receptor antibody. No staining of podocytes was found in extra-capillary proliferating cells in rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis (GN). Segmental loss of staining was found in focal hyalinosis, nodular diabetic glomerulosclerosis, and amyloidosis while no detectable C3b receptor antigen was found in severe proliferative nephritis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Normal staining of podocytes was found in other nephropathies with endocapillary proliferation such as acute GN and mesangial GN and in renal diseases associated with immune deposits containing C3 such as mesangial proliferative and membranous SLE nephritis, idiopathic membranous GN, membranoproliferative GN types I and II, mesangial GN with IgA or C3 deposition and Henoch Schönlein's purpura. Loss of C3b receptor antigen in the diffuse proliferative nephritis of SLE distinguishes it both from nonproliferative lupus nephritis and other immunologically mediated proliferative GN.
PMCID: PMC370144  PMID: 7042757
25.  Prediction of urinary protein markers in lupus nephritis 
Kidney international  2005;68(6):2588-2592.
Lupus nephritis is divided into six classes and scored according to activity and chronicity indices based on histologic findings. Treatment differs based on the pathologic findings. Renal biopsy is currently the only way to accurately predict class and activity and chronicity indices. We propose to use patterns of abundance of urine proteins to identify class and disease indices.
Urine was collected from 20 consecutive patients immediately prior to biopsy for evaluation of lupus nephritis. The International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) class of lupus nephritis, activity, and chronicity indices were determined by a renal pathologist. Proteins were separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Artificial neural networks were trained on normalized spot abundance values.
Biopsy specimens were classified in the database according to ISN/RPS class, activity, and chronicity. Nine samples had characteristics of more than one class present. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves of the trained networks demonstrated areas under the curve ranging from 0.85 to 0.95. The sensitivity and specificity for the ISN/RPS classes were class II 100%, 100%; III 86%, 100%; IV 100%, 92%; and V 92%, 50%. Activity and chronicity indices had r values of 0.77 and 0.87, respectively. A list of spots was obtained that provided diagnostic sensitivity to the analysis.
We have identified a list of protein spots that can be used to develop a clinical assay to predict ISN/RPS class and chronicity for patients with lupus nephritis. An assay based on antibodies against these spots could eliminate the need for renal biopsy, allow frequent evaluation of disease status, and begin specific therapy for patients with lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2667626  PMID: 16316334
lupus nephritis; biomarkers; urine; electrophoresis; two-dimensional gel

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