Objective CXCR4 is a chemokine with multiple effects on the immune system. In murine lupus models, we demonstrated that monocytes, neutrophils, and B cells overexpressed CXCR4 and that its ligand, CXCL12, was up-regulated in diseased kidneys. We undertook this study to determine whether CXCR4 expression was increased in peripheral blood leukocytes from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and whether CXCL12 expression was increased in kidneys from patients with SLE. Methods Peripheral blood leukocytes from 31 SLE patients, 8 normal controls, and 9 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were prospectively analyzed by flow cytometry for CXCR4 expression. Biopsy samples (n = 14) from patients with lupus nephritis (LN) were immunostained with anti-CXCL12 antibody. Results CD19+ B cells and CD4+ T cells from SLE patients displayed a >2-fold increase (P = 0.0001) and >3-fold increase (P < 0.0001), respectively, in median CXCR4 expression compared with that in controls (n = 7-8). Moreover, CXCR4 expression on B cells was 1.61-fold higher in patients with SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) scores >10 (n = 8) than in patients with SLEDAI scores &10 (n = 16) (P = 0.0008), 1.71-fold higher in patients with class IV LN (n = 5) than in patients with other classes of LN (n = 7) (P = 0.02), and 1.40-fold higher in patients with active neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE) (n = 6) than in patients with inactive NPSLE (n = 18) (P = 0.01). CXCL12 was significantly up-regulated in the tubules and glomeruli of kidneys in patients with LN (n = 14), with the percentage of positive cells correlating positively with the severity of LN. Conclusion CXCR4 appears to be up-regulated in multiple leukocyte subsets in SLE patients. The heightened expression of CXCR4 on B cells in active NPSLE and of CXCL12 in nephritic kidneys suggests that the CXCR4/CXCL12 axis might be a potential therapeutic target for SLE patients with kidney and/or central nervous system involvement.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy
- Pharmacology (medical)