Phoenix from the flames: Rediscovering the role of the CD40–CD40L pathway in systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis

Meera Ramanujam, Jürgen Steffgen, Sudha Visvanathan, Chandra Mohan, Jay S. Fine, Chaim Putterman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lupus nephritis (LN) is a significant complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), increasing its morbidity and mortality. Although the current standard of care helps suppress disease activity, it is associated with toxicity and ultimately does not cure SLE. At present, there are no therapies specifically indicated for the treatment of LN and there is an unmet need in this disease where treatment remains a challenge. The CD40–CD40L pathway is central to SLE pathogenesis and the generation of autoantibodies and their deposition in the kidneys, resulting in renal injury in patients with LN. CD40 is expressed on immune cells (including B cells, monocytes and dendritic cells) and also non-haematopoietic cells. Interactions between CD40L on T cells and CD40 on B cells in the renal interstitium are critical for the local expansion of naive B cells and autoantibody-producing B cells in LN. CD40L-mediated activation of myeloid cells and resident kidney cells, including endothelial cells, proximal tubular epithelial cells, podocytes and mesangial cells, further amplifies the inflammatory milieu in the interstitium and the glomeruli. Several studies have highlighted the upregulated expression of CD40 in LN kidney biopsies, and preclinical data have demonstrated the importance of the CD40–CD40L pathway in murine SLE and LN. Blocking this pathway is expected to ameliorate inflammation driven by infiltrating immune cells and resident kidney cells. Initial experimental therapeutic interventions targeting the CD40–CD40L pathway, based on CD40L antibodies, were associated with an increased incidence of thrombosis. However, this safety issue has not been observed with second-generation CD40/CD40L antibodies that have been engineered to prevent platelet activation. With these advancements, together with recent preclinical and clinical findings, it is anticipated that selective blockade of the CD40–CD40L pathway may address the unmet treatment needs in SLE, LN and other autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102668
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Volume19
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors

Funding

Chaim Putterman has received research support from Boehringer Ingelheim for projects unrelated to the topic of this review; Chandra Mohan has no conflicts of interest; Jay Fine, Meera Ramanujam, Jüergen Steffgen, and Sudha Visvanathan declare they are full-time employees of Boehringer Ingelheim . Medical writing support was provided by OPEN Health Medical Communications (Choice, London, UK), with financial support from Boehringer Ingelheim . Chaim Putterman has received research support from Boehringer Ingelheim for projects unrelated to the topic of this review; Chandra Mohan has no conflicts of interest; Jay Fine, Meera Ramanujam, J?ergen Steffgen, and Sudha Visvanathan declare they are full-time employees of Boehringer Ingelheim. Medical writing support was provided by OPEN Health Medical Communications (Choice, London, UK), with financial support from Boehringer Ingelheim.

FundersFunder number
Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim

    Keywords

    • Autoantibody
    • CD40/CD40L
    • Lupus nephritis
    • Renal inflammation
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus

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