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Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2005 Sep;17(5):513-7.

Sources of autoantigens in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Stanford University School of Medicine, Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, CA 94305, USA.



A hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus is the production of autoantibodies that recognize nuclear antigens. However, the underlying events and mechanisms that lead to the selection of these molecules for the autoimmune response remain poorly understood. In this review, we will examine some of the proposed explanations for sources of systemic lupus erythematosus-specific autoantigens. We will focus on events related to apoptosis, viral infection, cytokine production, innate immune system components, and alternative splicing of pre-mRNA transcripts.


Definitive proof of a viral etiology for lupus remains elusive. However, recent observations have added to increasing evidence that viruses contribute to the bypass of tolerance in systemic lupus erythematosus. Also, events associated with apoptosis - most notably proteolytic autoantigen cleavage by caspases and granzyme B - have been implicated in the initiation of autoimmune responses for over a decade. Results obtained from animal models and human systems suggest complex functions for pro-apoptotic pathways in the regulation of immune responses. Inducible antigen expression and alternatively spliced transcripts may represent additional ways of generating autoantigenic material. Finally, toll-like receptor family members may play critical roles in the induction of antibody responses to nucleic acids in systemic lupus erythematosus.


Several factors may contribute to the generation of systemic lupus erythematosus-specific autoantigens. Determining the underlying causes of autoantibody production may provide important insight into the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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