Objective: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by uncontrolled production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D receptor (VDR) has potent anti-inflammatory activities. The aim of this study was to examine the correlation between VDR expression and inflammation and disease activity in patients with SLE.
Methods: Ninety-five SLE patients were recruited and divided into two groups, active and inactive, according to their SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI)-2 K, and 40 healthy individuals served as controls. The expression of VDR and NF-κB p65 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was determined by quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting. VDR expression was correlated with inflammatory and diseases parameters in SLE patients. VDR regulation was also studied in THP-1 and Jurkat cell lines.
Results: PBMC VDR expression was downregulated in SLE patients, especially in the active SLE group. VDR mRNA levels were negatively correlated with SLEDAI-2 K (r = - 0.348, P = 0.001), Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) renal activity scores (r = - 0.346, P = 0.014), and proteinuria (r = - 0.309, P = 0.002) and positively associated with serum complement C3 levels (r = 0.316, P = 0.002). Multiple stepwise regression analysis indicated that PBMC VDR downregulation was an independent risk factor for SLEDAI-2 K. VDR levels were also negatively correlated with NF-κB p65 (r = - 0.339, P = 0.001), TNF-α (r = - 0.268, P = 0.009), and IL-6 (r = - 0.313, P = 0.002) levels. In monocyte and T lymphocyte cell lines, TNF-α suppressed VDR expression, whereas 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D blocked TNF-α-induced VDR downregulation.
Conclusion: PBMC VDR expression is inversely associated with disease activity and inflammation in SLE patients, and VDR downregulation is likely driven by inflammation.
Keywords: Inflammation; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Vitamin D receptor.