Clinical and Experimental Studies in Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Autoimmune mechanisms and genetic susceptibility contribute to the pathogenesis of primary Sjögren’s syndrome and SLE. These chronic systemic autoimmune diseases have many serological and clinical features in common and have an impact on daily life. The studies in this thesis aim to elucidate their autoimmune mechanisms, define susceptibility genes and evaluate effects of androgen supplement on health-related quality of life.Autoantibodies against ?-fodrin, a widely distributed cytoskeletal protein, were detected at similar frequencies in sera from patients with primary and secondary Sjögren’s syndrome and SLE. Consequently, testing for antibodies against ?-fodrin would not add diagnostic value compared to conventional serological analysis and does not discriminate between these diseases.The type I interferon (IFN) system was found to be activated in primary Sjögren’s syndrome. IFN-? containing cells were detected in minor salivary gland biopsies, while sera from patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome induced IFN-? production in the presence of apoptotic and necrotic cell material. This ability of sera correlated with the presence of antibodies against RNA-binding proteins and IFN-? production was dependent on RNA in immune complexes. The natural interferon producing cells/plasmacytoid dendritic cells (NIPC/PDC) were the IFN-? producers and blocking of Fc?RIIa inhibited the production. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in two genes in the type I IFN signalling pathway, those for tyrosine kinase 2 and interferon regulatory factor 5, were strongly associated with SLE in a Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic population. The minor allele frequencies were lower in SLE patients than in healthy controls. These SNPs may decrease the function of the type I IFN system, thereby conferring protection against SLE.Supplementation with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in glucocorticoid treated women with SLE led to mild improvements in health-related quality of life in respect of mental well-being and sexuality, whereas physical well-being was unaffected.