Sle1 on chromosome 1 and Sle3/5 on chromosome 7 are two of the most critical lupus susceptibility loci of the New Zealand Black/White-derived NZM2410 mouse strain. In contrast to C57BL/6 mice congenic for either Sle1 (B6.Sle1) or Sle3/5 (B6.Sle3/5), strains that express only a modest lupus-related phenotype, the bicongenic B6.Sle1.Sle3/5 strain has a robust phenotype, suggesting a critical role for epistatic interactions in lupus pathogenesis. Mixed chimera experiments indicated that the two loci are functionally expressed by different cell populations and predicted that phenotypic expression of the phenotypic features of the B6.Sle1.Sle3/5 strain could be fully reproduced with a combination of B6.Sle1 and B6.Sle3/5 bone marrow. Contrary to our expectations, there was only a partial functional complementation in these mixed chimeras. Spleen enlargement, CD4:CD8 ratio elevation, and epitope spreading of autoantibodies were fully developed in B6+B6.Sle1.Sle3/5 but not in B6.Sle1+B6.Sle3/5 mixed chimeras. This study is the first to present evidence that the pathways mediated by two critical lupus susceptibility loci derived from the New Zealand White strain must be integrated intracellularly for epistatic interactions to occur. Our mixed chimera approach continues to provide novel insights into the functional genetic pathways underlying this important murine model of systemic autoimmunity.
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