What is the role of viral infection in the pathogenesis of Sjögren syndrome?

Updated: Mar 05, 2021
  • Author: Sriya K Ranatunga, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Viruses are viable candidates as environmental triggers, although proof of causation has remained elusive, and certainly no single virus has been implicated. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), HTLV-1, human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV) may have a role. Sjögrenlike syndromes are seen in patients infected with HIV, HTLV-1, and hepatitis C. [14, 15, 16]

Damage and/or cell death due to viral infection or other causes may provide triggering antigens to Toll-like receptors in or on dendritic or epithelial cells, which, by recognizing pathogen-associated patterns, are activated and begin producing cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules. As T and B lymphocytes migrate into the gland, they themselves become activated by dendritic and epithelial cells, thereafter acting as antigen-presenting cells. [17]

Expressed antigens include SSA/Ro, SSB/La, alpha-fodrin and beta-fodrin, and cholinergic muscarinic receptors. [13] Dendritic cell triggering by immune complexes formed from SSA ̶ anti-SSA (or other immune complexes) may propagate the ongoing innate and acquired immune activation.

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