Upregulation of integrin adhesive receptors has been implicated in various pathological conditions. We examined expression and function of integrin adhesive receptors on peripheral blood lymphocytes from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), particularly those with the complication of vasculitis, and found that VLA-4 and LFA-1 expression was increased in SLE patients with vasculitis, while LFA-1 but not VLA-4 expression was increased in those without vasculitis. These results suggested a role of VLA-4 in the pathogenesis of vasculitis in SLE. Functional studies further demonstrated that adhesion to cytokine-activated human umbilical cord vein endothelial cells and to the CS-1 alternatively spliced domain of fibronectin was significantly increased in SLE patients with vasculitis. Analysis of the functional epitopes on the α4 chain demonstrated that antigen densities of all the functional epitopes were increased in those with vasculitis, indicating that the increased expression of VLA-4 resulted from the increased number of VLA-4 molecules, and was not secondary to an increase in one particular functional epitope. Immunoprecipitation studies further support these results. Interestingly, high molecular weight bands associated with VLA-4 were observed in about half of the SLE patients with vasculitis. These results introduce a possibility that upregulation of integrin adhesive receptors has a potential role in the pathogenesis of vasculitis in SLE.
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