Background: Evidence supports the existence of different subphenotypes in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the pivotal role of cytokines and autoantibodies, which interact in a highly complex network. Thus, understanding how these complex nonlinear processes are connected and observed in real-life settings is a major challenge. Cluster approaches may assist in the identification of these subphenotypes, which represent such a phenomenon, and may contribute to the development of personalized medicine. Therefore, the relationship between autoantibody and cytokine clusters in SLE was analyzed. Methods: This was an exploratory study in which 67 consecutive women with established SLE were assessed. Clinical characteristics including disease activity, a 14-autoantibody profile, and a panel of 15 serum cytokines were measured simultaneously. Mixed-cluster methodology and bivariate analyses were used to define autoantibody and cytokine clusters and to identify associations between them and related variables. Results: First, three clusters of autoantibodies were defined: (1) neutral, (2) antiphospholipid antibodies (APLA)-dominant, and (3) anti-dsDNA/ENA-dominant. Second, eight cytokines showed levels above the threshold thus making possible to find 4 clusters: (1) neutral, (2) chemotactic, (3) G-CSF dominant, and (4) IFNα/Pro-inflammatory. Furthermore, the disease activity was associated with cytokine clusters, which, in turn, were associated with autoantibody clusters. Finally, when all biomarkers were included, three clusters were found: (1) neutral, (2) chemotactic/APLA, and (3) IFN/dsDNA, which were also associated with disease activity. Conclusion: These results support the existence of three SLE cytokine-autoantibody driven subphenotypes. They encourage the practice of personalized medicine, and support proof-of-concept studies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)