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The term ‘lupus’ refers to systemic lupus erythematosus, ‘nephritis’ refers to the ‘nephron,’ the Greek word for kidney, and ‘itis’ means inflammation, so lupus nephritis refers to inflammation of the kidney that results from having systemic lupus erythematosus.
In lupus, what happens is that some cells have their DNA so badly damaged, that the cell undergoes programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and it dies. This produces all these little apoptotic bodies, and exposes the insides of the cell, including parts of the nucleus, like DNA, histones, and other proteins, to the rest of the body.
Now in lupus the immune system is more likely to think that cellular parts are foreign, or antigens, and since they’re from the nucleus, their referred to as nuclear antigens, and immune cells try to attack them.
Not only that though, individuals with lupus have less effective clearance, essentially they aren’t as good at getting rid of the apoptotic bodies and so they end up having more nuclear antigens floating around.
So as a result of all of this, B cells start producing antibodies against these pieces of nucleus, which are called antinuclear antibodies.
These antinuclear antibodies bind to nuclear antigens, forming antigen-antibody complexes, which drift away in the blood and deposit in various places including the kidneys.
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