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Mouse models of lupus: what they tell us and what they don’t

Mara Lennard Richard and Gary Gilkeson

Author affiliations

Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Correspondence to

Dr Gary Gilkeson;


Lupus is a complex heterogeneous disease characterised by autoantibody production and immune complex deposition followed by damage to target tissues. Animal models of human diseases are an invaluable tool for defining pathogenic mechanisms and testing of novel therapeutic agents. There are perhaps more applicable murine models of lupus than any other human disease. There are spontaneous models of lupus, inducible models of lupus, transgenic-induced lupus, gene knockout induced lupus and humanised mouse models of lupus. These mouse models of lupus have contributed significantly to our knowledge of the pathogenesis of lupus and served as valuable preclinical models for proof of concept for new therapies. Despite their utility, mouse models of lupus have their distinct limitations. Although similar, mouse and human immune systems are different and thus one cannot assume a mechanism for disease in one is translatable to the other. Efficacy and toxicity of compounds can vary significantly between humans and mice, also limiting direct translation. Finally, the heterogeneous aspects of human lupus, both in clinical presentation, underlying pathogenesis and genetics, are not completely represented in current mouse models. Thus, proving a therapy or mechanism of disease in one mouse model is similar to proving a mechanism/therapy in a limited subset of human lupus. These limitations, however, do not marginalise the importance of animal models nor the significant contributions they have made to our understanding of lupus.

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