Objective: To assess nucleosome plasma levels in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to study the correlations with serum antinucleosome, anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA), and antihistone antibody activities, as well as with disease activity (by the SLE Disease Activity Index [SLEDAI]).
Methods: In a cross-sectional study, we assessed 58 SLE patients for their plasma nucleosome levels. Plasma nucleosome levels as well as serum antinucleosome, anti-double-stranded DNA, and antihistone antibody activities were assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. SLE activity was evaluated using the SLEDAI:
Results: The mean (+/-SD) plasma nucleosome concentration in SLE patients was 52 +/- 159 ng/ml (range 5-1,180), and was significantly higher than that of the controls (16 +/- 8.8 ng/ml, range 8-52; P = 0.03). Thirteen of the 58 lupus patients had levels over the range of normal (defined as the control mean + 3 SD, or 42 ng/ml). An inverse correlation was found between nucleosome plasma levels and serum antinucleosome antibody activity in the entire group of SLE patients, those with active disease, and those with inactive disease, respectively. No correlation was found between the SLEDAI and nucleosome plasma concentrations.
Conclusion: Nucleosome plasma levels may be normal or increased in SLE, and found in patients with active or inactive SLE. Longitudinal studies are needed to further establish whether high levels of circulating nucleosomes may predict the occurrence of an SLE flare.