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Autoimmun Rev. 2010 Nov;10(1):38-42. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2010.08.015. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Autoimmunity and chronic inflammation - two clearance-related steps in the etiopathogenesis of SLE.

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Department for Internal Medicine 3, University Hospital Erlangen, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with very prominent chronic inflammatory aspects that render into multiple symptoms and clinical signs. The precise etiology of SLE remains elusive; however, it is known that its etiopathogenesis is of multifactorial nature. The production of autoantibodies (AAb) targeting double stranded DNA (dsDNA) and other nuclear autoantigens is the main characteristic of this disease. These target antigens are often modified and/or translocated when apoptotic cells undergo secondary necrosis as a consequence of the clearance deficiency in patients with SLE. In healthy individuals, dead and dying cells are rapidly removed by macrophages in an anti-inflammatory context; this does not elicit immune responses. In SLE, apoptotic cells are often not properly cleared; autoantigens leak out, and are subsequently presented to B cells by follicular dendritic cells (FDC) in secondary lymphoid tissues. This defect challenges the peripheral self-tolerance. Autoreactive B cell activation and production of anti-nuclear AAb result as the first step in the etiopathogenesis of SLE. The second step is the formation of immune complexes (IC) with apoptotic cell-derived nuclear remnants either in situ or deposited in various tissues. Nucleic acid-containing IC may also be ingested by phagocytes, which subsequently produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. Both processes result in chronic organ and tissue damage, development and maintenance of the systemic autoimmune disease. In conclusion, clearance deficiency may contribute to SLE in two ways: first, in germinal centres it enables the affinity maturation of autoreactive B cells and second, in peripheral tissues it leads to the accumulation of accessible nuclear autoantigens. Chronic inflammation in SLE is consequently promoted by the persistently binding of AAb with their cognate autoantigens forming a binary weapon: the nucleic acid-containing IC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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