Purpose: We sought to assess the nephritogenic antibody profile of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and to determine which antibodies were most useful in identifying patients at risk of nephritis.
Methods: We studied 199 patients with SLE, 78 of whom had lupus nephritis. We assayed serum samples for antibodies against chromatin components (double-stranded deoxyribonucleic acid [dsDNA], nucleosome, and histone), C1q, basement membrane components (laminin, fibronectin, and type IV collagen), ribonucleoprotein, and phospholipids. Correlations of these antibodies with disease activity (SLE Disease Activity Index) and nephropathy were assessed. Patients with no initial evidence of nephropathy were followed prospectively for 6 years.
Results: Antibodies against dsDNA, nucleosomes, histone, C1q, and basement membrane components were associated with disease activity (P <0.05). In a multivariate analysis, anti-dsDNA antibodies (odds ratio [OR] = 6; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2 to 24) and antihistone antibodies (OR = 9.4; 95% CI: 4 to 26) were associated with the presence of proliferative glomerulonephritis. In the prospective study, 7 (6%) of the 121 patients developed proliferative lupus glomerulonephritis after a mean of 6 years of follow-up. Patients with initial antihistone (26% [5/19] vs. 2% [2/95], P = 0.0004) and anti-dsDNA reactivity (6% [2/33] vs. 0% [0/67], P = 0.048) had a greater risk of developing proliferative glomerulonephritis than patients without these autoantibodies.
Conclusion: In addition to routine anti-dsDNA antibody assay, antihistone antibody measurement may be useful for identifying patients at increased risk of proliferative glomerulonephritis.