Lupus nephritis causes morbidity and mortality in patients affected by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Recent data have shown that dendritic cells (DC) play a central role in SLE pathogenesis, by enhancing the presentation of auto-antigens and the induction of autoimmunity. In this paper we demonstrated in a mouse model of progressive lupus nephritis that C1q, the recognition unit of complement classical pathway, is locally produced in the kidney. This local renal synthesis of C1q increased in a time dependent manner in accordance with the recruitment of infiltrating MHC II+ antigen presenting cells. In vitro C1q was produced by immature bone-marrow derived DC and was down regulated upon LPS-induced maturation. Consistent with these data, confocal microscopy analysis showed that interstitial C1q was associated with myeloid CD11c+-DC. Finally, we showed that also in the kidney of SLE patients with severe lupus nephritis, but not in patients with mild nephritis, C1q was associated with BDCA1+ myeloid DC. These data suggest that renal DC are responsible for the local synthesis of C1q in lupus nephritis, a process that may contribute to local complement activation and facilitate the engulfment of apoptotic renal cells and the presentation of auto-antigens to the adaptive immune response.
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