Journal of neuroinflammation

Neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus persists despite attenuation of systemic disease in MRL/lpr mice.

PMID 26546449


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypical autoimmune disease marked by both B and T cell hyperactivity which commonly affects the joints, skin, kidneys, and brain. Neuropsychiatric disease affects about 40 % of SLE patients, most frequently manifesting as depression, memory deficits, and general cognitive decline. One important and yet unresolved question is whether neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE) is a complication of systemic autoimmunity or whether it is primarily driven by brain-intrinsic factors. To dissect the relative contributions of the central nervous system from those of the hematopoietic compartment, we generated bone marrow chimeras between healthy control (MRL/+) and lupus-prone MRL/Tnfrsf6 (lpr/lpr) mice (MRL/+ → MRL/lpr), as well as control chimeras. After bone marrow reconstitution, mice underwent extensive behavioral testing, analysis of brain tissue, and histological assessment. Despite transfer of healthy MRL/+ bone marrow and marked attenuation of systemic disease, we found that MRL/+ → MRL/lpr mice had a behavioral phenotype consisting of depressive-like behavior and visuospatial memory deficits, comparable to MRL/lpr → MRL/lpr control transplanted mice and the behavioral profile previously established in MRL/lpr mice. Moreover, MRL/+ → MRL/lpr chimeric mice displayed increased brain RANTES expression, neurodegeneration, and cellular infiltration in the choroid plexus, as well as blood brain barrier disruption, all in the absence of significant systemic autoimmunity. Chimeric MRL/+ → MRL/lpr mice displayed no attenuation of the behavioral phenotype found in MRL/lpr mice, despite normalized serum autoantibodies and conserved renal function. Therefore, neuropsychiatric disease in the MRL/lpr lupus-prone strain of mice can occur absent any major contributions from systemic autoimmunity.