Detection of antibodies to DNA: a technical assessment

R Smeenk, M Hylkema

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Antibodies to DNA can be found in the circulation of the majority of patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). They are quite specific for this disease, which makes their detection an important diagnostic aid to the clinician. Fluctuations in the level of anti-dsDNA in an individual patient generally parallel the clinical state of that patient. Furthermore, the presence of anti-dsDNA may precede the diagnosis of SLE by more than a year. Four methods relevant for the measurement of anti-dsDNA antibodies are discussed in this paper: the ELISA, the indirect immunofluorescence test on Crithidia luciliae, the PEG assay, and the Farr assay. Each of these methods detects a part of the spectrum of anti-dsDNA antibodies present in the circulation of an individual patient. The ELISA is the most sensitive method, whereas the Farr assay is the most specific for SLE. However, with the latter method only antibodies of a relative high avidity for DNA are detected. Mild forms of SLE, where patients only have anti-dsDNA of a low avidity in their circulation, may easily be missed by this technique. Clinically, high avidity anti-dsDNA is related with the more frequent occurrence of nephritis, whereas low avidity anti-dsDNA antibodies are more often found in patients with central nervous system involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Biology Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov-1992


  • Ammonium Sulfate
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antibody Affinity
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity

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