The cellular regulation of anti-nuclear ribonucleoprotein (nRNP) antibody synthesis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) was examined and compared with that of anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibodies. In vitro antibody production by lymphocytes from SLE patients with antibodies to either dsDNA or nRNP alone was measured using dsDNA-specific and nRNP-specific solid-phase radioimmunoassays (RIA). Lymphocytes of SLE patients with only anti-dsDNA antibodies and normal individuals failed to synthesize anti-nRNP antibody with or without nRNP stimulation. In contrast, lymphocytes from SLE patients with anti-nRNP antibody alone in their sera synthesized in vitro a large amount of anti-nRNP antibody with or without nRNP stimulation. Experiments with reconstituted autologous lymphocytes indicated that B cells and T cells were required for anti-nRNP antibody synthesis. As expected, helper function for antibody synthesis by autologous B cells resided in the T4-cell population and suppressor function in the T8-cell population. T8 cells from SLE patients with anti-nRNP antibody alone suppressed anti-nRNP antibody synthesis by autologous B cells irrespective of clinical activity. This is in contrast to anti-dsDNA antibody production, which was not suppressed by autologous T8 cells. These results indicate that the cellular regulation of anti-nRNP antibody synthesis in SLE is different from that of anti-dsDNA antibody syntheis. Increased anti-nRNP antibody synthesis may be due to increased T4-helper cell function rather than defective T8-suppressor function.
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