Objective: Recent studies have revealed a potential implication of CD8+ T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) through their ability to induce tissue damage. The aim of the present study was to analyze the localization of CD8+ cells in the kidneys of patients with class III and class IV lupus nephritis and to establish correlations with histologic, biologic, and clinical features of SLE.
Methods: Twenty-five consecutive SLE patients with class III or class IV lupus nephritis were enrolled. Phenotype analyses of blood lymphocytes and renal immunohistochemistry studies were performed.
Results: CD8+ T cells were the predominant kidney-infiltrating subset of cells. The mean +/- SD numbers of CD8+ T cells and CD4+ T cells were 66.2 +/- 65.2/mm(2) and 19.3 +/- 29.4/mm(2), respectively. There was a significant correlation between the percentage of blood CD3+,CD8+,DR+ cells and the total number of renal CD8+ T cells (r = 0.42, P = 0.039). Renal CD8+ T cell infiltration correlated well with the renal activity index (r = 0.63, P = 0.0007) and with high serum creatinine levels (r = 0.75, P = 0.0001). This CD8+ T cell infiltrate, which was predominantly in the periglomerular area, was correlated with cellular crescents and Bowman's capsule rupture and was associated with a poor response after conventional induction therapy.
Conclusion: CD8+ T lymphocytes infiltrate the periglomerular area in patients with severe (class III and class IV) lupus nephritis and are linked to a poor outcome after induction therapy. These results reveal a new potential effector pathway operant in lupus nephritis.