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Clin Exp Immunol. 2008 Nov;154(2):247-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03758.x. Epub 2008 Sep 15.

Overexpression of interleukin-12 and T helper 1 predominance in lupus nephritis.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Oncology, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.


Imbalance of cytokine homeostasis is a prominent feature of both experimental and human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Because interleukin (IL)-12 promotes interferon (IFN)-gamma production leading to polarization of peripheral cells toward a T helper (Th) 1 phenotype, we investigated its role in lupus nephritis (LN). Soluble Th1 and Th2 cytokines were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in sera and urines of SLE patients and controls. Th1/Th2 peripheral lymphocyte polarization was determined by flow cytometry. Glomerular accumulation of IL-12 was evaluated by immunohistochemistry, whereas urinary IL-12 was evaluated by ELISA. Higher serum IL-12 levels in SLE were associated with LN, whereas IL-4 was unrelated to the renal damage. Peripheral cells from LN patients showed a Th1 phenotype with a high IFN-gamma expression that paralleled the severity of renal damage. IL-12 was present within glomerular mononuclear cells in classes IV and V LN, and its accumulation was correlated strongly with urinary levels. IL-12 overexpression in SLE may contribute to the development of LN. Both serum and urinary IL-12 elevation reflect its glomerular production and parallel Th1 polarization of peripheral T cells and high IFN-gamma production. In SLE patients, IL-12 measurement may thus be predictive of the development of LN.

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