Studies of anti-double-stranded (anti-ds)DNA antibodies have provided insights into how and why these antibodies arise in systemic lupus erythematosus. In this review we discuss the experimental approaches that have been used by our laboratory to study these autoantibodies. Structure/function analyses including site-directed mutagenesis have helped characterize the molecular genetics of anti-dsDNA antibodies, and more recently peptide libraries have been used to define molecular motifs that these antibodies bind. Most of the pathogenic anti-dsDNA antibodies observed in lupus are somatically mutated. We demonstrated in vitro and in vivo that anti-bacterial antibodies can mutate to acquire specificity for dsDNA. Furthermore, using a fusion partner constitutively expressing bcl-2, NSO(bcl-2), we have shown the existence of anergic or preapoptotic B cells making antibodies that cross-react with both bacterial antigen and dsDNA. Whether defects in the regulation of these antibodies might contribute to serum expression of anti-dsDNA antibodies in some individuals remains unknown. A major emphasis of this review is the regulation of anti-dsDNA antibodies in a transgenic mouse model harboring the gene for the heavy chain of a pathogenic anti-dsDNA antibody. Nonautoimmune transgenic mice effectively regulate autoreactive B cells by anergy and deletion, while their autoimmune counterparts do not. The vast majority of anergic B cells expressing high-affinity transgenic anti-dsDNA antibody fail to display allelic exclusion of the heavy chain. We postulate that this may be one mechanism that allows them to escape deletion. Comparative studies on light chain usage in both the autoimmune and the nonautoimmune transgenic mouse strains have demonstrated that within the autoreactive B-cell population, there are subsets that are differentially regulated. Ultimately transgenic animals making pathogenic autoantibodies may provide us with a system for testing novel therapies for autoimmune disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)