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J Cell Physiol. 2018 Dec 7. doi: 10.1002/jcp.27878. [Epub ahead of print]

In vitro modulatory effect of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate on apoptosis and expression of apoptosis-related genes in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Department of Immunology, Semnan University of Medical Sciences, Semnan, Iran.
Immunology Research Center, Bu-Ali Research Institute, School of Medicine, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.
Rheumatology Diseases Research Center, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mashhad, Iran.
Department of Immunology, School of medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.



Systemic lupus erythematosus‌ (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by hyperactive B cells that produce various autoantibodies. Sex hormones have been documented to influence the development of SLE, in which women with SLE have low plasma level of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). A strong conclusion about the effect of DHEAS on apoptosis in SLE patients has not been provided. The aim of this study was to assess apoptotic effects of DHEAS on peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) from SLE patients.


Twenty SLE patients and 20 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included into this study. Concentration of DHEAS was measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in serum from all participants. Freshly isolated PBLs from each individual were treated with 7.5-µmol of DHEAS for 24 hr in cell culture medium to assess the effect of DHEAS on apoptosis using fluorescein isothiocyante-conjugated annexin V and propidium iodide. The messenger RNA (mRNA) expression level of apoptosis-related genes (Fas, Fas-L, Bcl-2, and Bax) in PBLs was measured using real-time PCR before and after treating with DHEAS.


Level of DHEAS was low in SLE patients compared with healthy controls (p < 0.05). After treating with DHEAS, the percentage of apoptotic cells in SLE patients was decreased in comparison with healthy controls. DHEAS treatment increased the mRNA expression level of Bcl-2 in PBLs from SLE patients.


DHEAS reduced the apoptosis rate in PBLs from SLE patients and may decrease the load of autoantigens. Therefore, DHEAS might be considered as a therapeutic tool in SLE patients.


Bcl-2; apoptosis; dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; systemic lupus erythematosus


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