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Keywords:

  • α-MSH;
  • arthritis;
  • cytokines;
  • experimental lupus;
  • nephritis

Summary

Alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) is a neuropeptide exhibiting anti-inflammatory activity in experimental models of autoimmune diseases. However, no studies thus far have examined the effects of α-MSH on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This study aimed to determine the effects of an α-MSH agonist in induced murine lupus. Here we employed female Balb/cAn mice in which lupus was induced by pristane. Groups of lupus animals were treated daily with the α-MSH analogue [Nle4, DPhe7]-α-MSH (NDP–MSH) (1·25 mg/kg) injected intraperitoneally or saline for 180 days. Normal animals comprised the control group. Arthritis incidence, plasma immunoglobulin (Ig)G isotypes, anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) and plasma cytokines were evaluated. Renal function was assessed by proteinuria and histopathological lesion. Glomerular levels of IgG, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), C3, CD3, melanocortin receptors (MCR)1, corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) and α-MSH was estimated by immunohistochemistry. When compared with normal controls, lupus animals exhibited increased arthritis, IgG levels, ANA, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, proteinuria and mesangial cell proliferation together with glomerular expression of α-SMA and iNOS. Glomerular expression of MCR1 was reduced in lupus animals. NDP-MSH treatment reduced arthritis scores by 70% and also diminished IgG1 and IgG2a levels and ANA incidence. In the glomerulus, NDP–MSH treatment reduced cellularity by 50% together with reducing IgG deposits, and expression levels of α-SMA, iNOS and CRF were also all decreased. Taken together, our results suggest for the first time that α-MSH treatment improves several parameters of SLE disease activity in mice, and indicate that this hormone is an interesting potential future treatment option.