High salt diet accelerates the progression of murine lupus through dendritic cells via the p38 MAPK and STAT1 signaling pathways

Ze Xiu Xiao, Xiaojiang Hu, Ximei Zhang, Zhigang Chen, Julie Wang, Ke Jin, Feng Lin Cao, Baoqing Sun, Joseph A. Bellanti, Nancy Olsen, Song Guo Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The increased incidence of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in recent decades might be related to changes in modern dietary habits. Since sodium chloride (NaCl) promotes pathogenic T cell responses, we hypothesize that excessive salt intake contributes to the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases, including SLE. Given the importance of dendritic cells (DCs) in the pathogenesis of SLE, we explored the influence of an excessive sodium chloride diet on DCs in a murine SLE model. We used an induced lupus model in which bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs) were incubated with activated lymphocyte-derived DNA (ALD-DNA) and transferred into C57BL/6 recipient mice. We observed that a high-salt diet (HSD) markedly exacerbated lupus progression, which was accompanied by increased DC activation. NaCl treatment also stimulated the maturation, activation and antigen-presenting ability of DCs in vitro. Pretreatment of BMDCs with NaCl also exacerbated BMDC-ALD-DNA-induced lupus. These mice had increased production of autoantibodies and proinflammatory cytokines, more pronounced splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy, and enhanced pathological renal lesions. The p38 MAPK–STAT1 pathway played an important role in NaCl-induced DC immune activities. Taken together, our results demonstrate that HSD intake promotes immune activation of DCs through the p38 MAPK–STAT1 signaling pathway and exacerbates the features of SLE. Thus, changes in diet may provide a novel strategy for the prevention or amelioration of lupus or other autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number34
JournalSignal Transduction and Targeted Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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