Cell death and the release of chromatin have been demonstrated to activate the immune system producing autoantibodies against nuclear antigens in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Apoptosis, necrosis, necroptosis, secondary necrosis, autophagy and the clearance of dying cells by phagocytosis are processes believed to have a role in tolerance avoidance, activation of autoimmune lymphocytes and tissue damage by effector cells. The released chromatin not only activates the immune system; it also acts as antigen for the autoantibodies produced, including anti-dsDNA antibodies. The subsequent immune complex formed is deposited within the basement membranes and the mesangial matrix of glomeruli. This may be considered as an initiating event in lupus nephritis. The origin of the released chromatin is still debated, and the possible mechanisms and cell sources are discussed in this study.
Keywords: NETosis lupus nephritis; apoptosis; autophagy; necrosis.
© 2014 British Society for Immunology.