Neutrophil extracellular traps-associated markers are elevated in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Rheumatol Int. 2019 Nov;39(11):1849-1857. doi: 10.1007/s00296-019-04426-1. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are the main source of autoantigens in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical importance of NETs-associated markers in SLE. We compared NETs-associated markers in SLE patients (n = 111) with healthy controls (n = 50). Moreover, in 35 patients with drug-naïve SLE (n = 35), we investigated correlation between NETs-associated markers [DNase I concentration, myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity, anti-MPO antibodies, cell-free DNA (cfDNA), NETolytic activity] with serological parameters [anti-dsDNA antibodies, C3, C4 and B-cell activating factor (BAFF) levels] and disease activity measured by modified SLE Disease Activity Index (M-SLEDAI-2K). In comparison with healthy controls, SLE patients had higher cfDNA, MPO activity, anti-MPO antibodies (p < 0.001), BAFF and DNase I concentration (p < 0.01). Contrary, NETolytic activity was lower in SLE patients (p < 0.05), despite higher concentration of DNase I. MPO activity and cfDNA levels showed correlation with DNase I concentration (p < 0.001, p < 0.01, respectively). BAFF levels correlated with cfDNA, DNase I concentration and MPO activity (p < 0.05). Anti-dsDNA antibodies showed correlation with MPO activity (p < 0.01), cfDNA and BAFF levels (p < 0.001). Anti-dsDNA and C3 levels were independent predictors of M-SLEDAI-2K in multivariate analysis (p < 0.01). We demonstrated that sera of SLE patients have decreased NETolytic activity, leading to increased levels of various NETs-associated markers, which correlate with anti-dsDNA antibodies in drug-naïve SLE. We showed that BAFF participates in a complex relationship between NETosis and anti-dsDNA antibodies production. These findings have important implications for a better understanding of SLE pathogenesis and development of therapy that inhibits NETs persistence and disease progression.

Keywords: Anti-dsDNA; BAFF; Cell-free DNA; DNase I; NET; SLE.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / blood*
  • DNA / blood
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / blood
  • Disease Progression
  • Extracellular Traps*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • DNA
  • Peroxidase
  • Deoxyribonuclease I