The most prevalent severe manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus is nephritis, which is characterized by immune complex deposition, inflammation, and scarring in glomeruli and the tubulointerstitium. Numerous studies indicated that glomerulonephritis results from a systemic break in B cell tolerance, resulting in the local deposition of immune complexes containing Abs reactive with ubiquitous self-Ags. However, the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus tubulointerstitial disease is not known. In this article, we demonstrate that in more than half of a cohort of 68 lupus nephritis biopsies, the tubulointerstitial infiltrate was organized into well-circumscribed T:B cell aggregates or germinal centers (GCs) containing follicular dendritic cells. Sampling of the in situ-expressed Ig repertoire revealed that both histological patterns were associated with intrarenal B cell clonal expansion and ongoing somatic hypermutation. However, in the GC histology, the proliferating cells were CD138-CD20+ centroblasts, whereas they were CD138+CD20low/- plasmablasts in T:B aggregates. The presence of GCs or T:B aggregates was strongly associated with tubular basement membrane immune complexes. These data implicate tertiary lymphoid neogenesis in the pathogenesis of lupus tubulointerstitial inflammation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy