Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex trait with evidence of polygenic inheritance influenced by environmental factors. However, the precise underlying causes of SLE remain unclear. A number of environmental exposures have been associated with lupus or related autoimmune phenomena. Evidence suggests that some environmental exposures need to be present many years before the onset of SLE. Both SLE and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can occur in very young children and this supports the possibility that important environmental factors must be present during or before this time. In addition, the immune pathology, including autoantibody production, in adult lupus may begin years before clinical disease. There is also evidence that the developing immune system demonstrates developmental plasticity and can be permanently altered or 'programmed' by the early environment. We describe how early life environmental influences including infectious exposure may lead to autoantibody production in later life thus beginning the journey that leads to autoimmune diseases such as lupus in susceptible individuals.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





814 - 819


Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Autoantibodies, Autoimmunity, Environmental Exposure, Humans, Hypersensitivity, Immune System, Infection, Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic