Association of lipoproteins and thyroid hormones with cognitive dysfunction in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Background: Neuropsychiatric manifestations occur in up to 75% of adult systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and are one of the major causes of death in SLE patients. Cognitive dysfunction is a typical clinical feature of neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE), which seriously affects the quality of life of patients. Dyslipidaemia and thyroid symptoms, which are prevalent in SLE patients, have both been related to neuropsychiatric disturbances, including significant psychiatric and cognitive disturbances. This study aimed to investigate whether cognitive dysfunction in patients with SLE was related to the expression of serum thyroid hormone and lipoprotein levels.

Methods: A total of 121 patients with SLE and 65 healthy controls (HCs) at Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital completed a cognitive function test, and 81 SLE patients were divided into a high-cognition (n = 33) group and a low-cognition group (n = 48). The clinical and laboratory characteristics of the patients were compared; moreover, correlations between serum HDL-C, LDL-C, F-T3 and F-T4 levels and cognitive function were analysed. Serum levels of APOE, APOA1, IGF-1, and IGFBP7 in 81 patients were detected by ELISA, and the correlation between these four proteins and cognition was analysed separately.

Results: The patients with SLE with abnormal cognitive function were less educated than the HCs. For low-cognition patients, the levels of albumin, F-T3 (P < 0.05) and F-T4 decreased, while D-dimer, anti-dsDNA antibody, and IgM levels increased. Serum F-T3 and F-T4 levels positively correlated with cognition. Furthermore, serum protein levels of APOE and APOA1 showed no difference between the high- and low-cognition groups. However, the serum APOE levels were negatively correlated with line orientation scores, and APOA1 levels were positively correlated with coding scores.

Conclusions: Serum F-T3 and F-T4 levels were both positively correlated with four indexes of cognition (language was the exception), while serum APOE levels were negatively correlated with line orientation scores, APOA1 levels were positively correlated with coding scores, and IGFBP7 levels were negatively correlated with figure copy scores. These results demonstrated that F-T3 and F-T4 might be clinical biomarkers of cognitive dysfunction in SLE.

Keywords: Cognitive dysfunction; Free thyroxine (F-T4); Free triiodothyronine (F-T3); Lipoprotein; Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).