Open Access Research article

Anti-C1q antibodies antedate patent active glomerulonephritis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Olivier C Meyer1*, Pascale Nicaise-Roland2, Nolwenn Cadoudal2, Sabine Grootenboer-Mignot2, Elisabeth Palazzo1, Gilles Hayem1, Philippe Dieudé1 and Sylvie Chollet-Martin2

Author Affiliations

1 Rheumatology Unit, Bichat Hospital, APHP, 46 rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris, France

2 Immunology Unit, Bichat Hospital, APHP, 46 rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris, France

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2009, 11:R87  doi:10.1186/ar2725

Published: 10 June 2009

Abstract

Introduction

Autoantibodies against C1q correlate with lupus nephritis. We compared titers of anti-C1q and anti-dsDNA in 70 systemic lupus erythematosus patients with (n = 15) or without (n = 55) subsequent biopsy-proven lupus nephritis.

Methods

The 15 patients with subsequent lupus nephritis had anti-C1q assays during clinical flares (mean Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI), 10.0 ± 4.7; range, 3 to 22) before the diagnosis of lupus nephritis (median, 24 months; range 3 to 192). Among the 55 others, 33 patients had active lupus (mean SLEDAI, 10.3 ± 6.2; range, 4 to 30) without renal disease during follow-up (median 13 years; range 2 to 17 years) and 22 had inactive lupus (mean SLEDAI, 0; range, 0 to 3).

Results

Anti-C1q titers were elevated in 15/15 (100%) patients who subsequently developed nephritis (class IV, n = 14; class V, n = 1) and in 15/33 (45%) patients without renal disease (P < 0.001). The median anti-C1q titer differed significantly between the groups (P = 0.003). Anti-C1q titers were persistently positive at the time of glomerulonephritis diagnosis in 70% (7/10) of patients, with no difference in titers compared with pre-nephritis values (median, 147 U/ml; interquartile range (IQR), 69 to 213 versus 116 U/ml; 50 to 284, respectively). Titers decreased after 6 months' treatment with immunosuppressive drugs and corticosteroids (median, 76 U/ml; IQR, 33 to 106) but remained above normal in 6/8 (75%) patients. Anti-dsDNA antibodies were increased in 14/15 (93.3%) patients with subsequent nephritis and 24/33 (72.7%) patients without nephritis (P = ns). Anti-C1q did not correlate with anti-dsDNA or the SLEDAI in either group.

Conclusions

Anti-C1q elevation had 50% positive predictive value (15/30) and 100% (18/18) negative predictive value for subsequent class IV or V lupus nephritis.