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Brain Behav Immun. 1999 Dec;13(4):287-302.

Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus differ from healthy controls in their immunological response to acute psychological stress.

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Division of Medical Psychology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, 30623, Germany.


Clinical observations suggest that psychological stress induces exacerbation of disease activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In order to determine whether SLE patients differ from healthy controls in their stress response, we analyzed heart rate, blood pressure, catecholamine concentration, lymphocyte subpopulations, natural killer (NK) cell activity, and expression of beta-adrenoceptors on PBMC before, immediately after, and 1 h after a public speaking task in 15 SLE patients and 15 healthy subjects. Both groups demonstrated similar psychological, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine responses to acute stress. However, natural killer (CD16(+)/CD56(+)) cell numbers transiently increased after stress exposure, with significantly less pronounced changes in SLE patients. In addition, NK activity increased in healthy controls (n = 8) but not in SLE patients (n = 4) after acute stress. Furthermore, the number of beta(2)-adrenoceptors on PBMC significantly increased only in healthy subjects (n = 8) after stress but not in SLE patients (n = 7). These data indicate that SLE patients differ from healthy controls in stress-induced immune responses.

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