Causes of Lupus

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
Coronin-1A Gene
Environmental Exposures
Viruses and Bacteria


Possible causes of lupus include genetics, environmental exposures such as insecticides and smoking, hormones, medications, and infections. (Also see Autoimmune Diseases and Overview of Lupus)

Aberrant T cell subsets and cytokines expression profile in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). T cell subsets and levels of chemokines and cytokines in patients with SLE and their relationships between disease activity and organ involvement were assessed. PubMed, Clin Rheumatol, 2018 Sep;37(9):2405-2413. (Also see B Cells and T Cells)

Increased lipid and protein oxidation and lowered anti–oxidant defenses in systemic lupus erythematosus are associated with severity of illness, autoimmunity, increased adhesion molecules. Increased nitro–oxidative stress takes part in the (auto)immune pathophysiology of SLE and modulates severity of illness and adhesion molecule expression. PubMed, Immunol Res, 11/29/2017.

Activating and inhibitory receptors on natural killer cells in patients with systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE)–regulation with interleukin-15. Natural killer (NK) cells may play an important role in the pathogenesis of SLE. PubMed, PLoS One, 2017 Oct 12;12(10):e0186223. (Also see Natural Killer Cells)

A Stress Link to Lupus. Psychological trauma is associated with an increased risk for lupus, a new study reports. New York Times, 09/20/2017.

Immune complexes containing serum B-cell activating factor (BAFF) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) correlate with disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). BAFF–IgG complexes strongly correlate with disease activity in SLE patients, suggesting a pathogenic role in SLE. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 08/08/2017.

Endothelial Alterations in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): Potential Effect of Monocyte Interaction. This paper aims to review some aspects about the endothelial activation and dysfunction in the context of SLE and RA, as well as the potential role that monocytes apparently play in this process. PubMed, Mediators Inflamm, 2017;2017:9680729. (Also see Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis)

Expression of CCR6 on B cells in systemic lupus erythematosus patients. Pre–germinal centre B cells are found in lower proportions and the expression of CCR6 is increased on B cells of SLE patients, suggesting a role for the chemokine pair in the pathogenesis of the disease. PubMed, Clin Rheumatol, 2017 Jun;36(6):1453-1456. (Also see B Cells and T Cells)

Homocysteine (HHcy) serum levels are increased and correlate with disease severity in patients with lupus erythematosus (LE). Hcy levels were higher in patients with different forms of cutaneous LE and correlated with disease activity, therefore HHcy could be related to LE pathogenesis and might be a triggering factor in predisposed individuals. PubMed, Clin Exp Rheumatol, 01/08/2016.

Coronin-1A Gene

New Genetic Mutation That Halts The Development Of Lupus Discovered. The lupus-suppressing action is the result of what is known as a nonsense mutation of the Coronin-1A gene (Coro1a) required for the development of the disease. ScienceDaily.

Environmental Exposures

Mechanistic insights into environmental and genetic risk factors for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This information is expected to provide practical insights into these risk factors in order to benefit patients with SLE and facilitate the development of potential therapeutic strategies. PubMed, Am J Transl Res, 2019 Mar 15;11(3):1241-1254.

The interaction between environmental triggers and epigenetics in autoimmunity. Reactive oxygen species that inhibit Dnmt1 upregulation, and a diet poor in methyl donors, combine to cause lupus in animal models. PubMed, Clin Immunol, 04/09/2018.

Environmental exposures and the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. Identifying the environmental risk factors related to risk of SLE is essential as it will lead to increased understanding of pathogenesis of this complex disease and will also make risk factor modification possible for those at increased risk. PubMed, Curr Opin Rheumatol, 2016 Sep;28(5):497-505.


Gene–function studies in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The work discussed in this review has broad implications for our understanding of the pathogenesis of SLE and for the development of novel therapeutic strategies. PubMed, Curr Opin Rheumatol, 2019 Mar;31(2):185-192.

Association of interleukin 13 gene polymorphisms and plasma IL 13 level with risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The concentration of IL-13 was significantly elevated in rs20541 CT/TT genotypes compared with CC genotype which suggests that rs20541 CT/TT genotypes may be a risk factor for SLE. PubMed, Cytokine, 10/07/2017. (Also see Interleukins)

Evaluation of polymorphic variants in apoptotic genes and their role in susceptibility and clinical progression to systemic lupus erythematosus. Our data support a role for apoptosis in SLE susceptibility. PubMed, Lupus, 11/30/2016.

Genetics of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren's syndrome: an update. SLE and Sjögren's syndrome are two closely related systemic autoimmune diseases that share multiple clinical and molecular aspects, including a significant number of susceptibility genes. PubMed,Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2016 Sep;28(5):506-14. (Also see Sjogren's Syndrome)


Hormonal Modulation of Dendritic Cells (DC) Differentiation, Maturation and Function: Implications for the Initiation and Progress of Systemic Autoimmunity. In this review, we discuss recent data relative to the role of different hormones (estrogen, prolactin, progesterone and glucocorticoids) in DC function during systemic autoimmune pathogenesis. PubMed, Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz), 09/01/2016.


Oral contraceptives are a possible cause of lupus.

Contraception in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid syndrome. Contraceptive choice in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is challenging but important. Long-acting forms of contraception such as the progesterone intrauterine device (IUD) or subdermal implant are preferable for most patients. Sage Journals, Lupus.


The microbiome and systemic lupus erythematosus. This new knowledge, along with that enabling alteration in composition of the gut microbiome, via diet modification, antibiotic, and probiotics, may bring forward a new era in the future of lupus treatment. PubMed, Immunol Res, 2017 Apr;65(2):432-437.

Viruses and Bacteria

Immune responses to an early lytic cytomegalovirus (CMV) antigen in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients: T-cell responses, cytokine secretions and antibody status. The dysfunctional immune response against Epstein-Barr virus previously established in SLE patients does not seem to apply to the same degree regarding the immune responses against CMV or human herpes virus 6. PubMed, PLoS One, 2018 Mar 2;13(3):e0193244.

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