Genetic imprinting of autoantibody repertoires in systemic lupus erythematosus patients


G. J. Silverman, Rheumatic Diseases Core Center and the Laboratory of B-cell Immunobiology, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0663, USA.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease distinguished by great heterogeneity in clinical manifestations and autoantibody expression. While only a handful of autoantibody specificities have proved useful for clinical diagnosis, to characterize complex lupus-associated autoantibody profiles more fully we have applied proteome microarray technology. Our multiplex microarrays included control ligands and 65-autoantigens, which represent diverse nuclear and cytoplasmic antigens recognized by disease-associated and natural autoantibodies. From longitudinal surveys of unrelated SLE patients, we found that autoantibody profile patterns can be patient-specific and highly stable overtime. From profiles of 38 SLE patients that included 14 sets of SLE twins, autoantibodies to the phospholipid neo-determinants, malondialdehyde (MDA) and phosphorylcholine (PC), which are exposed on apoptotic but not healthy cells, were among the most prevalent and highly expressed. We also found that immunoglobulin M (IgM) reactivity to MDA and PC ligands had significant direct correlations with DNA-containing antigens, while such a general relationship was not found with a panel of RNA-related antigens, or for IgG-autoantibodies. Significantly, hierarchical analysis revealed co-distribution/clustering of the IgM autoantibody repertoire patterns for six of 14 twin sets, and such patterns were even more common (10 of 14) for IgG autoantibody profiles. Our findings highlight the potentially distinct roles of IgM and IgG autoantibodies, as we postulate that the direct correlations for IgM autoantibodies to DNA antigens with apoptosis-related determinants may be due to co-expression arising from common pro-homeostatic protective roles. In contrast, the sharing of IgG autoantibody fingerprints by monozygotic twins suggests that lupus IgG autoantibodies can arise in predisposed individuals in genetically determined patterns.