Published February 1, 2006 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Causes and consequences of the autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome


Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) is the first autoimmune hematological disease whose genetic basis has been defined. It is a disorder of apoptosis in which the inability of lymphocytes to die leads to lymphadenopathy, hypersplenism, and autoimmune cytopenias of childhood onset. More than 200 ALPS patients have been studied over the last 15 years and followed by our colleagues and ourselves at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. Based upon this experience we have determined that patients with germline mutations of the intracellular domain of Fas protein, the most frequent single genetic cause of ALPS, have a significantly increased risk of developing Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), underscoring the critical role played by cell surface receptor-mediated apoptosis in eliminating redundant proliferating lymphocytes with autoreactive and oncogenic potential. The major determinants of morbidity and mortality in ALPS are the severity of the autoimmune disease, hypersplenism, asplenia-related sepsis, and the risk of lymphoma, which in itself requires long-term surveillance. Though most episodes of cytopenias respond to courses of conventional immunomodulatory agents, some ALPS patients, especially those with massive splenomegaly and hypersplenism, may require splenectomy and/or ongoing immunosuppressive treatment. Thus, ALPS highlights the importance of cell death pathways in health and disease.



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