Lupus patients exhibit altered cell proteins, a discovery with potential implications for diagnostics

November 16, 2017, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore

Autoimmune diseases such as lupus—in which the body attacks its own cells and tissues—are on the rise, according to A*STAR's Anna-Marie Fairhurst. Her team is the first to observe that patients with lupus exhibit an increased number of a specific type of protein on the surface of certain white blood cells. This finding may help diagnosticians in detecting the disease, or reveal new avenues of research into its causes.

"Systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE, is the archetypal autoimmune , and affects the whole body," says Fairhurst. Common symptoms include fever, swollen joints, and fatigue, though the exact presentation and severity vary from patient to patient.

Fairhurst's research group, including scientists from the Singapore Immunology Network and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, recently discovered a link between SLE and the increased prevalence of a cell-surface that modulates immune responses, called 'Siglec-14.'

The team assessed 39 patients with SLE and found that, compared to a cohort of healthy individuals, the patient group expressed significantly more Siglec-14 proteins on a class of called monocytes. SLE disease severity also increased in tandem with the monocyte levels of Siglec-14 among the study group.

Most Siglec proteins are inhibitory, dampening immune responses upon recognizing the body's own molecules. This is thought to be an innate mechanism that prevents the body from attacking itself. Siglec-14, however, differs in that it's an excitatory molecule that stimulates host defenses. "An increased expression of Siglec-14 would create a greater stimulatory signal," says Fairhurst. It's not fully understood how much the increased protein contributes to the disease: "The increase could either amplify inflammation or just be an indicator of disease," says Fairhurst.

In a previous study into Siglec-14 and chronic , a gene variation causing the loss of Siglec-14 expression resulted in a reduced risk of inflammatory response that could exacerbate the disease. Fairhurst's results on SLE showed no disparity in SLE disease severity/prevalence between those with, or without, the gene variant.

This paper is the first to explore the relationship between SLE and monocyte Siglec expression, and Fairhurst hopes that other institutions will start to look at the relevance of Siglec proteins to disease: "Every discovery in research is a stepping stone, and since this study is the first of its kind, I'd like other researchers to be able to reproduce these results, and then build on them to find out why this happens, and better understand human disease."

Explore further: Infiltrating self-defense cells provoke kidney failure in a chronic autoimmune disease

More information: Susannah I. Thornhill et al. Monocyte Siglec-14 expression is upregulated in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and correlates with lupus disease activity, Rheumatology (2017). DOI: 10.1093/rheumatology/kew498

Related Stories

Infiltrating self-defense cells provoke kidney failure in a chronic autoimmune disease

August 24, 2016
The crucial role of dendritic cells in a fatal renal condition of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been exposed by A*STAR researchers. "Our studies show that these cells switch mild autoimmune phenotypes to severe kidney ...

Japanese researchers identify a protein linked to the exacerbation of COPD

March 21, 2013
Researchers from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute and Nippon Medical School in Japan have identified a protein likely to be involved in the exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This protein, Siglec-14, ...

Protein implicated in lupus promotes disease progression by distinct mechanisms in different immune cells

March 13, 2013
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) come under attack by their immune system, producing 'autoantibodies' that inflict damage throughout the body. Antibodies normally target foreign proteins, but SLE autoantibodies ...

Genetic risk factor for premature birth found

May 6, 2014
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a genetic risk factor for premature birth. The risk factor is related to a gene that codes for a protein that the scientists have found ...

Study shows how immune cells rally defenses against infection while keeping harmful inflammatory reactions in check

May 11, 2012
T cells represent a significant component of the ‘muscle’ in the immune system, promoting aggressive action against perceived threats or restraining fellow immune cells from launching an unhealthy autoimmune response ...

Recommended for you

Research shows diet has little influence on precursor to gout

October 11, 2018
Dietary factors have a far smaller influence on urate levels (a precursor to gout) than previously envisaged, new University of Otago research reveals.

More doctor visits lead to less suicide attempts for fibromyalgia patients

September 19, 2018
Fibromyalgia patients who regularly visit their physicians are much less likely to attempt suicide than those who do not, according to a new Vanderbilt University Medical Center study published in Arthritis Care & Research.

Antioxidant found to be effective in treating mice with osteoarthritis

September 14, 2018
A team of researchers in Belgium and the Netherlands has found that feeding a common antioxidant to test mice was effective in treating osteoarthritis. In their paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the group ...

Researchers find answers as to why some people are at risk of gout

September 12, 2018
University of Otago researchers have helped characterise a genetic variant that enables new understanding of why some people are at risk of gout, a painful and debilitating arthritic disease.

Emotions like anger and sadness may cause pain as well as being a result of it

September 10, 2018
While emotions such as anger or sadness are often thought of as being a result of stress or pain, findings recently published by Penn State researchers suggest that negative or mixed emotions could function as stressors themselves.

Dietary carbohydrates could lead to osteoarthritis, new study finds

August 9, 2018
Do your knees ache? According to new findings from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, your diet could be a culprit.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.