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Increased alloreactive and autoreactive antihuman leucocyte antigen antibodies associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis

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Jackman RP1,2, Cruz GI3, Nititham J2, Triulzi DJ4,5, Barcellos LF3, Criswell LA4, Norris PJ1,2, Busch MP1,2. Lupus Sci Med. 2018 Sep 25;5(1):e000278. doi: 10.1136/lupus-2018-000278. eCollection 2018.


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1 Blood Systems Research Institute, San Francisco, California, USA.

2 Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.

3 School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.

4 Russell/Engleman Rheumatology Research Center, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.

5 Institute for Transfusion Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


OBJECTIVES: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disproportionately affect women during and following childbearing years. Antihuman leucocyte antigen (HLA) alloantibody responses are common in healthy parous women, and as these diseases are both linked with HLA and immune dysregulation, we sought to evaluate anti-HLA antibodies in RA and SLE.

METHODS: Anti-HLA antibodies were measured among parous SLE cases (n=224), parous RA cases (n=202) and healthy parous controls (n=239) and compared with each other as well as with nulliparous female and male controls. Antibody specificities were identified and compared against subject HLA types to determine autoreactivity versus alloreactivity. The association of anti-HLA antibodies with clinical outcomes was evaluated.

RESULTS: Levels and frequencies of anti-HLA antibodies were significantly higher among parous females with SLE (52%) or RA (46%) compared with controls (26%), and anti-HLA antibodies were also found among nulliparous females and males with SLE and RA. Autoreactive anti-HLA antibodies were observed among SLE and RA antibody-positive subjects, but not healthy controls, with the highest frequency of autoreactive anti-HLA antibodies found in the SLE subjects. Higher levels of anti-HLA antibodies were associated with nephritis among the nulliparous SLE cases (p<0.01). The presence of anti-class I HLA antibodies was associated with younger age at diagnosis among both the RA and SLE nulliparous cases.

CONCLUSIONS: Both autoreactive and alloreactive anti-HLA antibodies were found at high levels in RA and SLE subjects. These occurred even in the absence of alloexposure, particularly among SLE subjects and may be linked with disease severity.