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Lupus. 2001;10(5):332-9.

Counter-proliferative effects of nucleosomal antigens in cultures from lupus patients.

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Department of Immunology, Imperial College School of Medicine St Mary's, London, UK.


Blood mononuclear cells from 20 lupus patients were cultured in the presence of nucleosomal antigens to determine whether they induce lymphocyte proliferation. The predominant effect seen, however, was one of inhibition of the background proliferation. Such inhibition was rare with cells from female or male controls. Nucleohistone (NH), crude histone and enriched preparations of histones H2A/H4, H2B and H3 showed this effect in approximately one-third of patients, but H1 and single-stranded (ss) DNA had no such activity. Double-stranded (ds) DNA may show this inhibitory action, but further tests are required. ssDNA was the only antigen that showed evidence (two patients) of disease-related stimulation of proliferation. Histones and NH induced proliferation in many subjects but the strongest responders were controls. Patients responded poorly to tuberculin PPD but gave an exceptionally strong proliferative response to pokeweed mitogen. It is suggested that the inhibition of background proliferation in patients is a consequence of the interaction of nucleosomal antigens with sensitised T cells. If T cell sensitisation to histones is an important factor in the development of lupus, the disease may be preventable in those at risk by inducing tolerance to the appropriate peptides.

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