The in vitro immune response of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) lymphocytes to nucleosides conjugated to keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) (A,G,C,T-KLH) was investigated. The nucleosides were chosen not only because they are a part of nucleic acid antigen and involved in autoimmunity, but also because nucleoside covalently bound to either soluble IgG or cells had been shown to induce unresponsiveness in mice. A significant proliferation index was induced in SLE lymphocytes, as compared with normal or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) lymphocytes in vitro [in (A,G,C,T)-KLH, 1 microgram/ml; stimulation index = M +/- SE, SLE 2.10 +/- 0.26, RA 1.06 +/- 0.14, normal 1.12 +/- 0.12 P less than 0.05]. Lymphocytes from SLE patients responded specifically to low doses of (A,G,C,T)-KLH and not to the protein carrier KLH alone. A solid-phase radioimmunoassay was developed to detect nucleoside-specific antibody. SLE lymphocytes spontaneously produced high levels of anti-A,G,C,T antibody. This was further increased by antigenic stimulation, but not with pokeweed mitogen (PWM) stimulation. In contrast normal lymphocytes failed to produce anti-A,G,C,T antibody either spontaneously or in response to antigen. However, normal lymphocytes produced antibody after stimulation with PWM. More importantly, anti-A,G,C,T antibody production by SLE lymphocytes was suppressed by preincubation with A,G,C,T-IgG (A,G,C,T-HGG). The antigen-specific unresponsiveness caused by A,G,C,T-HGG was demonstrated by the observation that preincubation with A,G,C,T-HGG did not affect the production of anti-dinitrophenyl antibody response. The ability to manipulate the altered response of SLE lymphocytes to nucleic acid antigens may have therapeutic implications in these patients.


C Morimoto, A D Steinberg, S F Schlossman, Y Borel


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