Metabolic abnormalities and oxidative stress in lupus

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Purpose of review

Upon antigen exposure, immune cells rely on cell-specific metabolic pathways to mount an efficient immune response. In autoimmunity, failure in critical metabolic checkpoints may lead to immune cell hyperactivation and tissue damage. Oxidative stress in autoimmune patients can also contribute to immune dysregulation and injury to the host. Recent insights into the immune cell metabolism signatures, specifically associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and the consequences of heightened oxidative stress in patients, are discussed herein.

Recent findings

Glucose metabolism inhibitors, mechanistic target of rapamycin pathway modulators, and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma-activating compounds demonstrate therapeutic benefit in experimental models of lupus. Mitochondrial-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) and molecular modifications induced by oxidative stress appear to be detrimental in lupus. Effective therapies tailored toward the reconfiguration of metabolic imbalances in lupus immune cells and the reduction of mitochondrial ROS production/availability are currently being tested.


A paucity of knowledge exists regarding the metabolic needs of a number of immune cells involved in the pathogenesis of SLE, including myeloid cells and B cells. Nonetheless, SLE-specific metabolic signatures have been identified and their specific targeting, along with mitochondrial ROS inhibitors/scavengers, could show therapeutic advantage in lupus patients.

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