Autoimmunity and vascular involvement in systemic sclerosis (SSc)

Autoimmunity. 1999;31(3):195-214. doi: 10.3109/08916939908994064.


Endothelial injury, obliterative microvascular lesions, and increased vascular wall thickness are present in all involved organs in scleroderma. The vascular pathology is associated with altered vascular function with increased vasospasm, reduced vasodilatory capacity and increased adhesiveness of the blood vessels to platelets and lymphocytes. The extent of injury and dysfunction is reflected by changes in the circulating levels of vascular markers. The initial triggers for the vascular pathology are not known. Possible viral triggers are visited here, including cytomegalovirus in view of increased levels of anti-CMV antibodies in scleroderma, and the remarkable similarities between CMV vasculopathies and scleroderma vascular disease. Endothelial apoptosis in scleroderma may be related to viral infection, immune reactions to viral or environmental factors, reperfusion injury or to anti-endothelial antibodies. The impact of the vascular pathology on the evolution of tissue fibrosis is not known; still, cytokines (TGFbeta, IL4), vascular factors (endothelin), and growth factors (PDGF) are possibly crucial signals that link the vascular disease to tissue fibrosis. Knowledge of the regulation of these and other factors will provide the opportunity to develop more rational therapeutic approaches to the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / immunology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / immunology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / pathology
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta