The role of biomarkers in the assessment of lupus

Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2005 Oct;19(5):709-26. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2005.05.004.


Although considered a prototypic autoimmune disease, the hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is its heterogeneity. Accordingly, manifestations can vary widely from person to person, with the potential involvement of virtually any bodily organ. Furthermore, the genetic abnormalities underlying this condition are complicated, with diverse genetic polymorphisms described in different ethnic groups, strongly suggesting that the actual pathology underlying the immunologic disarray might not be the same for each patient. Evolving concepts of genetics and immunity have clarified that patients can carry unique arrays of exacerbating and protective factors. These factors, in conjunction with variable environmental triggers for SLE, probably determine the sequelae that an individual experiences. Therefore, it is not surprising that the clinical manifestations are diverse, the temporal sequence of organ involvement often unpredictable, and that the flares of inflammatory activity that characterize SLE can either remit without consequence or leave permanent damage in their wake. It is widely accepted that the current standard of care for SLE patients is inadequate. Programs to develop and test new drug and/or device therapies have been ongoing since the mid-1990s but have encountered formidable obstacles. With the current burst of drug discovery and the advent of several large international trials of promising new agents, the challenge to overcome these obstacles has never been greater. A burgeoning literature in the past decades nevertheless suggests that despite the complexities of the many immunologic pathways that impact on SLE, characteristic biologic markers are emerging as potential signposts that can characterize patient subgroups, predict prognosis, mark the exacerbations and remissions of SLE flares, and serve as endpoints in the determination of the dosing and timing of immune-modulating treatments. Several of the promising biomarkers are addressed in this chapter.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Lupus Coagulation Inhibitor / blood*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Lupus Coagulation Inhibitor
  • Complement System Proteins