Serological studies, immunofluorescence studies, and immunochemical assays of glomerular eluates indicate that several antigen-antibody systems may be involved in the pathogenesis of the tissue lesions of SLE. The NDNA-anti-NDNA system appears to be operative in most patients with active SLE. In addition, antibodies to SDNA are found with considerable frequency in SLE sera and glomerular eluates. It is not known if these antibodies fix to NDNA which has been denatured after deposition in glomeruli or if SDNA-anti-DNA complexes are deposited initially. NDNA antigen has been demonstrated in both serum and glomerular deposits, and SDNA determinants have also been found in glomerular deposits. In addition, there is evidence that rheumatoid factor contributes to the immune complex deposition in certain patients either by fixing to preformed immune complexes or as part of an independent γ-globulin-anti-γ-globulin system.
It is anticipated that the definition of these immune systems, and the assessment of their relative toxicity will provide insight into underlying etiologic factors as well as provide a sound basis for therapy in this form of glomerulonephritis.