Lupus flares when genetically predisposed people encounter exogenous agents such as infections and sun exposure and drugs such as procainamide and hydralazine, but the mechanisms by which these agents trigger the flares has been unclear. Current evidence indicates that procainamide and hydralazine, as well as inflammation caused by the environmental agents, can cause overexpression of genes normally silenced by DNA methylation in CD4+
T cells, converting them into autoreactive, proinflammatory cytotoxic cells that are sufficient to cause lupus in mice, and similar cells are found in patients with active lupus. More recent studies demonstrate that these cells comprise a distinct CD4+
T cell subset, making it a therapeutic target for the treatment of lupus flares. Transcriptional analyses of this subset reveal proteins uniquely expressed by this subset, which may serve as therapeutic to deplete these cells, treating lupus flares.
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