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Arthritis Res Ther. 2006;8(1):R6.

B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) isoforms in systemic lupus erythematosus: disease activity correlates better with blood leukocyte BLyS mRNA levels than with plasma BLyS protein levels.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Considerable evidence points to a role for B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) overproduction in murine and human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Nevertheless, the correlation between circulating levels of BLyS protein and disease activity in human SLE is modest at best. This may be due to an inadequacy of the former to reflect endogenous BLyS overproduction faithfully, in that steady-state protein levels are affected not just by production rates but also by rates of peripheral utilization and excretion. Increased levels of BLyS mRNA may better reflect increased in vivo BLyS production, and therefore they may correlate better with biologic and clinical sequelae of BLyS overexpression than do circulating levels of BLyS protein. Accordingly, we assessed peripheral blood leukocyte levels of BLyS mRNA isoforms (full-length BLyS and DeltaBLyS) and plasma BLyS protein levels in patients with SLE, and correlated these levels with laboratory and clinical features. BLyS protein, full-length BLyS mRNA, and DeltaBLyS mRNA levels were greater in SLE patients (n = 60) than in rheumatoid arthritis patients (n = 60) or normal control individuals (n = 30). Although full-length BLyS and DeltaBLyS mRNA levels correlated significantly with BLyS protein levels in the SLE cohort, BLyS mRNA levels were more closely associated with serum immunoglobulin levels and SLE Disease Activity Index scores than were BLyS protein levels. Moreover, changes in SLE Disease Activity Index scores were more closely associated with changes in BLyS mRNA levels than with changes in BLyS protein levels among the 37 SLE patients from whom repeat blood samples were obtained. Thus, full-length BLyS and DeltaBLyS mRNA levels are elevated in SLE and are more closely associated with disease activity than are BLyS protein levels. BLyS mRNA levels may be a helpful biomarker in the clinical monitoring of SLE patients.

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