Published for the British Association of Dermatologists by Blackwell Scientific Publications
British Journal of Dermatology vol:150 issue:4 pages:693-700
BACKGROUND: Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are chronic inflammatory diseases of unknown aetiology; the relationship of DLE with SLE has been a subject of debate for many years. OBJECTIVES; To find evidence for systemic immune activation in DLE by analysis of the immunophenotypic profiles of circulating lymphocytes, and to compare these changes with those in patients with SLE. METHODS: The immunophenotypic profile of peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets from 23 DLE patients without clinical or laboratory evidence of systemic disease, 25 SLE patients and 38 healthy donors was characterized by two-colour immunofluorescence flow cytometry analysis. None of the patients was receiving corticosteroid or immunosuppressive treatment. RESULTS: Patients with DLE had increased numbers of circulating HLA-DR+ CD3+ T cells and HLA-DR+ CD4+ T cells, indicating systemic T-cell activation, and an expansion of CD5+ CD19+ B cells. Decreased numbers of T-cell subsets expressing the differentiation markers CD11b and CD16/56, and of CD16/56+ natural killer cells were also found. In SLE, the changes were similar but more pronounced. In addition, a profound CD4+ T-cell lymphopenia and an increase of HLA-DR+ CD8+ T cells were found only in SLE. CONCLUSIONS: Our data provide evidence for systemic activation of the cellular immune system in patients with purely cutaneous DLE. Similarities in the lymphocyte immunophenotypic profiles in patients with DLE compared with SLE suggest that there are common immunopathological processes in these two conditions.