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BACKGROUND: The soluble form of the interleukin 7 receptor (sIL-7R) is produced by fibroblasts after stimulation with proinflammatory cytokines. Increased sIL-7R serum and synovial fluid levels were recently demonstrated in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether sIL-7R production is dysregulated in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and whether this correlates with disease activity. METHODS: Serum and urine sIL-7R concentrations were measured by ELISA, and sIL-7R quantitative PCR (qPCR) studies were performed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). IL-7R, tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα), IL-1β and IL-17 immunostainings were performed on kidney sections. RESULTS: sIL-7R concentrations were significantly higher in SLE sera than in controls, and correlated with SLE Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) scores. Accordingly, serum sIL-7R levels were strongly raised in patients with nephritis. Moreover in patients with lupus nephritis, serum sIL-7R decreased upon treatment. sIL-7R gene expression in PBMCs was similar in patients with lupus nephritis and controls. By contrast, abundant perivascular IL-7R expression was seen in SLE kidney biopsy specimens, which was associated with expression of TNFα in the surrounding tissue. CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that sIL-7R is a marker of SLE disease activity, especially nephritis. In contrast to conventional disease activity markers, sIL-7R is not produced by immune cells, but might instead reflect activation of tissue cells in the target organ.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Rheum Dis

Publication Date





453 - 456


Adult, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic, Lupus Nephritis, Male, Receptors, Interleukin-7, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction