The generation of extracellular DNA in SLE: the role of death and sex.
DNA is a large macromolecule that plays a central role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), serving as a target antigen of autoantibodies as well as a major component of immune complexes. These complexes can both promote immune disturbances as well as deposit in the kidney to incite inflammation. While the origin of anti-DNA autoantibodies in SLE has received intense investigation, the mechanisms by which DNA exits cells to form immune complexes in the circulation is not well understood. To determine the origin of DNA circulating in the blood in SLE, our laboratory has been using a murine model system to track the in vivo fate of DNA from Jurkat T cells that have been made apoptotic or necrotic in vitro and then administered to mice. Results of these studies indicate that DNA from apoptotic and necrotic cells appears in the blood in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Irrespective of origin, this DNA has properties of nucleosomes as shown by its molecular weight. The process of release requires the presence of macrophages and can be modified by glucocorticoids as well as inflammation. In addition, sex may play a role in the generation of extracellular DNA from dead cells as male and female mice differ in their responses in this model. Together, these studies clarify the origin of extracellular DNA circulating in the blood in SLE and suggest steps in this process that can be interdicted by novel therapy.
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