Objective: To evaluate the effect of disease progression and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration on the presence of nucleosomes, antinucleosome reactivity, and nucleosome-Ig complexes in the circulation of MRL and control mice.
Methods: Plasma samples from lupus-prone (MRL/lpr and MRL/+) and control (CBA, Swiss, and BALB/c) mice were tested in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for the presence of nucleosomes, antinucleosome antibodies, and nucleosome-Ig complexes. Nucleosome kinetics, apoptosis induction, and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells were also analyzed in MRL/lpr, MRL/+, and CBA control mice after a single injection of LPS or phosphate buffered saline.
Results: Nucleosomes were found in the circulation of MRL/lpr and MRL/+ mice from week 4 onward. Nucleosomes were also detected in young control mice, but with increasing age, the nucleosomes disappeared. Antinucleosome antibodies, nucleosome-Ig complexes, and albuminuria were found only in the MRL/lpr mice. LPS administration led to a significant increase in circulating nucleosomes (3-8-fold) in all strains tested. In only the MRL/lpr mice was this increase followed by a significant decrease in antinucleosome titers and an increase in nucleosome-Ig complexes. The number of apoptotic cells in the thymus after LPS was significantly higher in the MRL/lpr mice than in the MRL/+ and CBA control mice. LPS caused a profound reduction (50-70%) of the phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by peritoneal macrophages, which was comparable for all strains.
Conclusion: In MRL lupus-prone mice, nucleosomes are persistently present in the circulation, whereas in control mice, nucleosomes are present only at a young age. The formation of antinucleosome antibodies and nucleosome-Ig complexes is a characteristic feature of MRL/lpr mice. LPS administration increases systemic nucleosome release due to an enhancement of apoptosis and a decrease in the clearance of apoptotic cells.