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Adv Immunol. 2006;92:1-69.

Systemic lupus erythematosus: multiple immunological phenotypes in a complex genetic disease.

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Center for Immunology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex polygenic autoimmune disease characterized by the presence of anti-nuclear autoantibodies (ANAs) that are often detectable years prior to the onset of clinical disease. The disease is associated with a chronic activation of the immune system, with the most severe forms progressing to inflammatory damage that can impact multiple organ systems in afflicted individuals. Current therapeutic strategies poorly control disease manifestations and are generally immunosuppressive. Recent studies in human patient populations and animal models have associated elements of the innate immune system and abnormalities in the immature B lymphocyte receptor repertoires with disease initiation. A variety of cytokines, most notably type I interferons, play important roles in disease pathogenesis and effector mechanisms. The genetic basis for disease susceptibility is complex, and analyses in humans and mice have identified multiple susceptibility loci, several of which are located in genomic regions that are syntenic between humans and mice. The complexities of the genetic interactions that mediate lupus have been investigated in murine model systems by characterizing the progressive development of disease in strains expressing various combinations of susceptibility alleles. These analyses indicate that genetic epistasis dramatically impact disease development and support the feasibility of identifying molecular pathways that can suppress disease progression without completely impairing normal immune function.

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