Several clinical and biological features of lymphoproliferative diseases have been associated with an increased risk of developing autoimmune manifestations. Acquired deficiency of C1-inhibitor (C1-INH) (AAE) is a rare syndrome clinically similar to hereditary angioedema (HAE) characterized by local increase in vascular permeability (angioedema) of the skin and the gastrointestinal and oro-pharyngo-laryngeal mucosa. Bradykinin, a potent vasoactive peptide, released from high molecular weight kininogen when it is cleaved by plasma kallikrein (a serine protease controlled by C1-INH), is the mediator of symptoms. In total 46% of AAE patients carry an underlying hematological disorder including monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS) or B cell malignancies. However, 74% of AAE patients have anti-C1-INH autoantibodies without hematological, clinical or instrumental evidence of lymphoproliferative disease. Unlike HAE patients, AAE patients usually have late-onset symptoms, do not have a family history of angioedema and present variable response to treatment due to the hypercatabolism of C1-INH. Experiments show that C1-INH and/or the classical complement pathway were consumed by the neoplastic lymphatic tissues and/or anti-C1-INH neutralizing autoantibodies. Therapy of AAE follows two directions: 1) prevention/reversal of the symptoms of angioedema; and 2) treatment of the associated disease. Different forms of B cell disorders coexist and/or evolve into each other in AAE and seem to be dominated by an altered control of B cell proliferation, thus AAE represents an example of the strict link between autoimmunity and lymphoproliferation.
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