Reduction in erythrocyte-bound complement activation products and titres of anti-C1q antibodies associate with clinical improvement in systemic lupus erythematosus

Lupus Sci Med. 2016 Sep 30;3(1):e000165. doi: 10.1136/lupus-2016-000165. eCollection 2016.


Background: The relationship between cell-bound complement activation products (CB-CAPs: EC4d, EC3d), anti-C1q, soluble complement C3/C4 and disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) was evaluated.

Methods: Per protocol, at baseline all SLE subjects enrolled in this longitudinal study presented with active disease and elevated CB-CAPs. At each monthly visit, the non-serological (ns) Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus: National Assessment (SELENA-SLEDAI) and the British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG)-2004 index scores were determined as was a random urinary protein to creatinine ratio (uPCR). Short-form 36 (SF-36) questionnaires were also collected. All soluble markers were determined using immunoassays, while EC4d and EC3d were determined using flow cytometry. Statistical analysis consisted of linear mixed models with random intercept and fixed slopes.

Results: A total of 36 SLE subjects (mean age 34 years; 94% female) were enrolled and evaluated monthly for an average 11 visits per subject. Clinical improvements were observed during the study, with significant decreases in ns-SELENA-SLEDAI scores, BILAG-2004 index scores and uPCR, and increases in all domains of SF-36 (p<0.01). The longitudinal decrease in ns-SELENA-SLEDAI and BILAG-2004 index scores was significantly associated with reduced EC4d and EC3d levels, reduced anti-C1q titres and increased serum complement C3/C4 (p<0.05). The changes in uPCR significantly correlated with C3, C4, anti-C1q and EC4d, with EC4d outperforming C3/C4 by a multivariate analysis. The reduced EC4d or EC3d was associated with improvements in at least six out of the eight domains of SF-36 and outperformed C3/C4. Anti-dsDNA titres did not correlate with changes in disease activity.

Conclusions: These data indicate that CB-CAPs and anti-C1q are helpful in monitoring patients with SLE.

Keywords: Disease Activity; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Treatment.