Anti-mitochondrial autoantibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus and their association with disease manifestations

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 14;9(1):4530. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40900-3.


Mitochondria are organelles that govern energy supply and control cell death. Mitochondria also express bacterial features, such as the presence of inner membrane cardiolipin and a circular genome rich in hypomethylated CpG motifs. While mitochondrial extrusion by damaged organs or activated cells is thought to trigger innate immunity, it is unclear whether extracellular mitochondria also stimulate an adaptive immune response. We describe the development of novel assays to detect autoantibodies specific to two distinct components of the mitochondrion: the mitochondrial outer membrane and mitochondrial DNA. Antibodies to these two mitochondrial constituents were increased in both human and murine systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), compared to controls, and were present at higher levels than in patients with antiphospholipid syndrome or primary biliary cirrhosis. In both bi- and multi-variate regression models, antibodies to mitochondrial DNA, but not whole mitochondria, were associated with increased anti-dsDNA antibodies and lupus nephritis. This study describes new and optimized methods for the assessment of anti-mitochondrial antibodies, and demonstrates their presence in both human and murine SLE. These findings suggest that different mitochondrial components are immunogenic in SLE, and support the concept that extracellular mitochondria may provide an important source of circulating autoantigens in SLE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / immunology*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / immunology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Autoantibodies
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Mitochondrial Proteins