Associations of C-reactive protein isoforms with systemic lupus erythematosus phenotypes and disease activity

Arthritis Res Ther. 2022 Jun 11;24(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s13075-022-02831-9.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by a large production of autoantibodies and deficient clearance of cellular waste. The disease typically oscillates between episodes of elevated disease activity and quiescent disease. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a pentameric acute-phase protein usually reflecting inflammation and tissue damage. However, despite increased inflammation and elevated interleukin-6, the levels of CRP typically remain low or only slightly raised in SLE. Under certain conditions, pentameric CRP (pCRP) can dissociate into its monomeric isoform (mCRP), which mainly has been ascribed pro-inflammatory properties. The present study aims to investigate the potential relationship between pCRP and mCRP, respectively, with disease activity and clinical features of SLE.

Methods: The levels of pCRP and mCRP were measured, by turbidimetry (high-sensitive) and sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) respectively, in serum samples from 160 patients with SLE and 30 patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV). Twenty-two of the SLE cases were selected for analysis at two time-points; quiescent disease and active disease. The two CRP isoforms were evaluated in relation to disease activity and clinical features in the two diseases.

Results: Levels of pCRP and mCRP were significantly lower in SLE than AAV (p < 0.001) and the ratio of mCRP/pCRP was higher in SLE compared to AAV. The mCRP/pCRP ratio was higher for patients in remission and able to significantly separate between active/quiescent disease in paired, but not in non-paired, samples from patients with SLE. Significant correlations were observed with SLICC/ACR damage index for pCRP levels as well as inversely with the mCRP/pCRP ratio. Lower mCRP levels associated with malar rash.

Conclusion: As the interrelationship between the two isoforms appear to (a) discriminate between quiescent and active SLE and (b) differ between SLE and AAV, our data indicates that the two CRP isoforms could exert contrasting immunological effects and/or reflect different milieus. Given the biological effects of mCRP, it is possible that altered levels may indicate increased opsonization of immune complexes and apoptotic debris, and thereby prevent their deposition outside the reticuloendothelial system and manifestations such as lupus nephritis and lupus-related skin disease.

Keywords: Acute-phase protein; Biomarker; C-reactive protein; Complement; Inflammation; Pentraxin; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / diagnosis
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Isoforms


  • Protein Isoforms
  • C-Reactive Protein