Why the Lupus Immune System Reacts to Its Own DNA

The blueprint for what makes us each unique as individuals—DNA and RNA—is carried inside every cell nucleus of our body.

And thankfully, the immune system normally has no trouble distinguishing our own DNA and RNA from that of foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.

But in people with lupus, the immune system gets confused for some reason, and misfires at its very own DNA and RNA—as if these blueprint “chips” were the enemy that required extermination.

Why does this happen?

Three LRI investigators are pursuing tantalizing answers. They suspect that activity from proteins called Toll-Like Receptors (TLRs), which normally help distinguish DNA and RNA from infectious pathogens such as viruses, may be to blame.

Yorgo Modis, PhD
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Class of 2007

Matthias Wabl, PhD
University of California, San Francisco, CA
Class of 2007
Class of 2012

Gregory Barton, PhD
University of California, Berkeley, CA
Class of 2007

Boris Reizis, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY
Class of 2009

Daniel Stetson, PhD
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Class of 2009

Mark Shlomchik, MD, PhD
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Class of 2011

Other discoveries on the basic immune system “mistakes” of lupus include work by:

Philip L. Cohen, MD
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Class of 2001

Jianhua Zhang, PhD
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
Class of 2002

V. Michael Holers, MD
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO
Class of 2003/2004

Michael C. Schneider, MD
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL
Class of 2002