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Arthritis Res Ther. 2003;5(4):172-7. Epub 2003 May 14.

SLE - Complex cytokine effects in a complex autoimmune disease: tumor necrosis factor in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatology, Internal Medicine III, University of Vienna, Austria.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a proinflammatory cytokine and a B-cell growth factor. It has numerous possible effects on T lymphocytes and dendritic cells, and it influences apoptosis. These differential effects may in part explain why patients under TNF-blocker therapy can develop autoantibodies to nuclear antigens, and may shed some light on the finding that low TNF fosters autoimmune disease in some mouse strains. On the contrary, TNF is increased in the blood and in the inflamed kidneys of systemic lupus erythematosus patients. Several studies in lupus-prone mice other than the F1 generation of New Zealand Black mice crossed with New Zealand White mice suggest that TNF is highly proinflammatory in the efferent limb and is potentially detrimental in lupus organ disease. Therefore, TNF blockade probably constitutes an efficacious therapeutic option.

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