Cardiovascular disease with premature atherosclerosis is common in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We previously identified elevated levels of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (OxLDL) together with elevated levels of autoantibodies related to OxLDL as risk factors for cardiovascular disease in female patients with SLE. Autoantibodies to OxLDL are common in SLE and cross-react with anticardiolipin antibodies (aCL). We therefore hypothesized that lipid peroxidation is enhanced in patients with SLE in general.
One hundred forty-seven female patients with SLE and 60 age- and sex-matched controls were compared. A monoclonal antibody to oxidized phospholipids, EO6, was used to determine oxidation epitopes on LDL. Anti-OxLDL and autoantibodies to malondialdehyde (MDA)–modified LDL, cardiolipin, and oxidized aCL were determined by chemiluminescence technique.
As determined by binding of EO6, patients with SLE had a higher level of oxidized phospholipids on LDL (P = 0.005) compared with controls. The level of OxLDL (e.g., oxidized phospholipid/apolipoprotein B) was associated with arterial disease (P = 0.006) and renal manifestations (P = 0.04). As reported previously, levels of aCL, autoantibodies to OxLDL, and autoantibodies to MDA-modified LDL were enhanced and were closely correlated in SLE. Anticardiolipin antibodies from these SLE patients recognized mainly oxidized forms of cardiolipin, indicating that antigenic epitopes on cardiolipin are related to lipid peroxidation in patients with SLE.
In general, patients with SLE (particularly those with cardiovascular disease) had more oxidized epitopes on LDL compared with controls. Furthermore, aCL in these patients recognized epitopes generated during lipid peroxidation. Thus, “neo” self antigens on lipoproteins, generated during oxidation, are present in SLE and may be of importance for the development of premature cardiovascular disease and possibly also for other autoimmune phenomena observed in SLE.