Anti-DNA antibodies — quintessential biomarkers of SLE
Antibodies that recognize and bind to DNA (anti-DNA antibodies) are serological hallmarks of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and key markers for diagnosis and disease activity. In addition to common use in the clinic, anti-DNA antibody testing now also determines eligibility for clinical trials, raising important questions about the nature of the antibody–antigen interaction. At present, no 'gold standard' for serological assessment exists, and anti-DNA antibody binding can be measured with a variety of assay formats, which differ in the nature of the DNA substrates and in the conditions for binding and detection of antibodies. A mechanism called monogamous bivalency — in which high avidity results from simultaneous interaction of IgG Fab sites with a single polynucleotide chain — determines anti-DNA antibody binding; this mechanism might affect antibody detection in different assay formats. Although anti-DNA antibodies can promote pathogenesis by depositing in the kidney or driving cytokine production, they are not all alike, pathologically, and anti-DNA antibody expression does not necessarily correlate with active disease. Levels of anti-DNA antibodies in patients with SLE can vary over time, distinguishing anti-DNA antibodies from other pathogenic antinuclear antibodies. Elucidation of the binding specificities and the pathogenic roles of anti-DNA antibodies in SLE should enable improvements in the design of informative assays for both clinical and research purposes.