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1.  Targeting transcription factor Stat4 uncovers a role for interleukin-18 in the pathogenesis of severe lupus nephritis in mice 
Kidney international  2010;79(4):452-463.
Polymorphisms in the transcription factor Stat4 gene have been implicated as risk factors for systemic lupus erythematosus. Although some polymorphisms have a strong association with autoantibodies and nephritis, their impact on pathophysiology is still unknown. To explore this further we used signal transducers and activators of transcription 4 (Stat4) knockout MRL/MpJ-Faslpr/Faslpr (MRL-Faslpr) mice and found that they did not differ in survival or renal function from Stat4-intact MRL-Faslpr mice. Circulating interleukin (IL)-18 levels, however, were elevated in Stat4-deficient compared to Stat4-intact mice, suggesting that this interleukin might contribute to the progression of lupus nephritis independent of Stat4. In a second approach, Stat4 antisense or missense oligonucleotides or vehicle were given to MRL-Faslpr mice with advanced nephritis. Each of these treatments temporarily ameliorated disease, although IL-18 was increased in each setting. Based on these findings, studies using gene transfer to overexpress IL-18 in MRL-Faslpr and IL-12p40/IL-23 knockout MRL-Faslpr mice reveal a critical role for IL-18 in mediating disease. Thus, the Stat4 and IL-12 (an activator of Stat4)-independent factor, IL-18, can drive autoimmune lupus nephritis in MRL-Faslpr mice. Temporarily blocking Stat4 during advanced nephritis ameliorates disease, suggesting a time-dependent compensatory proinflammatory mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3197226  PMID: 20980973
chronic glomerulonephritis; chronic inflammation; lupus nephritis
2.  Amelioration of Lupus Nephritis by Serum Amyloid P Component Gene Therapy with Distinct Mechanisms Varied from Different Stage of the Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22659.
Our previous study revealed that administration of syngeneic female BALB/c mice with excessive self activated lymphocyte-derived DNA (ALD-DNA) could induce systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease, indicating that overload of self-DNA might exceed normal clearance ability and comprise the major source of autoantigens in lupus mice. Serum amyloid P component (SAP), an acute-phase serum protein with binding reactivity to DNA in mice, was proved to promote the clearance of free DNA and prevent mice against self-antigen induced autoimmune response. It is reasonable to hypothesize that SAP treatment might contribute to alleviation of SLE disease, whereas its role in ALD-DNA-induced lupus nephritis is not fully understood.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The ratios of SAP to DNA significantly decreased and were negatively correlated with the titers of anti-dsDNA antibodies in ALD-DNA-induced lupus mice, indicating SAP was relatively insufficient in lupus mice. Herein a pcDNA3-SAP plasmid (pSAP) was genetically constructed and intramuscularly injected into BALB/c mice. It was found that SAP protein purified from the serum of pSAP-treated mice bound efficiently to ALD-DNA and inhibited ALD-DNA-mediated innate immune response in vitro. Treatment of ALD-DNA-induced lupus mice with pSAP in the early stage of SLE disease with the onset of proteinuria reversed lupus nephritis via decreasing anti-dsDNA autoantibody production and immune complex (IC) deposition. Further administration of pSAP in the late stage of SLE disease that had established lupus nephritis alleviated proteinuria and ameliorated lupus nephritis. This therapeutic effect of SAP was not only attributable to the decreased levels of anti-dsDNA autoantibodies, but also associated with the decreased infiltration of lymphocytes and the reduced production of inflammatory markers.
These results suggest that SAP administration could effectively alleviated lupus nephritis via modulating anti-dsDNA antibody production and the inflammation followed IC deposition, and SAP-based intervening strategy may provide new approaches for treating SLE disease.
PMCID: PMC3143173  PMID: 21799927
3.  Interleukin 6 Dependence of Anti-DNA Antibody Production: Evidence for Two Pathways of Autoantibody Formation in Pristane-induced Lupus  
Pristane induces a lupus-like syndrome in nonautoimmune mice characterized by the development of glomerulonephritis and lupus-associated autoantibodies. This is accompanied by overproduction of interleukin (IL)-6, a cytokine linked with autoimmune phenomena. The goal of this study was to evaluate the role of IL-6 in autoantibody production in pristane-induced lupus. BALB/cAn IL-6–deficient (−/−) and –intact (+/+) mice were treated with pristane or phosphate-buffered saline, and autoantibody production was evaluated. Pristane induced high levels of immunoglobulin (Ig)G anti-single-stranded DNA, –double-stranded (ds)DNA, and -chromatin antibodies in IL-6+/+, but not IL-6−/− mice by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. High titer IgG anti-dsDNA antibodies also were detected in sera from +/+, but not −/−, mice by Crithidia luciliae kinetoplast staining. The onset of IgG anti-dsDNA antibody production in +/+ mice occurred >5 mo after pristane treatment, well after the onset of nephritis, suggesting that these antibodies are not directly responsible for inducing renal disease. In contrast to anti-DNA, the frequencies of anti-nRNP/Sm and anti-Su antibodies were similar in pristane-treated IL-6−/− and IL-6+/+ mice. However, levels were higher in the +/+ group. These results suggest that IgG anti-DNA and chromatin antibodies in pristane-treated mice are strictly IL-6 dependent, whereas induction of anti-nRNP/Sm and Su autoantibodies is IL-6 independent. The IL-6 dependence of anti-DNA, but not anti-nRNP/Sm, may have implications for understanding the patterns of autoantibody production in lupus. Anti-DNA antibodies are produced transiently, mainly during periods of disease activity, whereas anti-nRNP/Sm antibody levels are relatively insensitive to disease activity. This may reflect the differential IL-6 dependence of the two responses.
PMCID: PMC2213386  PMID: 9730900
systemic lupus erythematosus; pristane; antinuclear antibodies; interleukin 6; anti-DNA antibodies
4.  Lupus Nephritis: Enigmas, Conflicting Models and an Emerging Concept 
Molecular Medicine  2013;19(1):161-169.
Autoantibodies to components of chromatin, which include double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), histones and nucleosomes, are central in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis. How anti-chromatin autoantibodies exert their nephritogenic activity, however, is controversial. One model assumes that autoantibodies initiate inflammation when they cross-react with intrinsic glomerular structures such as components of membranes, matrices or exposed nonchromatin ligands released from cells. Another model suggests glomerular deposition of autoantibodies in complex with chromatin, thereby inducing classic immune complex–mediated tissue damage. Recent data suggest acquired error of renal chromatin degradation due to the loss of renal DNaseI enzyme activity is an important contributing factor to the development of lupus nephritis in lupus-prone (NZBxNZW)F1 mice and in patients with lupus nephritis. Down-regulation of DNaseI expression results in reduced chromatin fragmentation and in deposition of extracellular chromatin–IgG complexes in glomerular basement membranes in individuals who produce IgG anti-chromatin autoantibodies. The main focus of the present review is to discuss whether exposed chromatin fragments in glomeruli are targeted by potentially nephritogenic anti-dsDNA autoantibodies or if the nephritogenic activity of these autoantibodies is explained by cross-reaction with intrinsic glomerular constituents or if both models coexist in diseased kidneys. In addition, the role of silencing of the renal DNaseI gene and the biological consequences of reduced chromatin fragmentation in nephritic kidneys are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3745592  PMID: 23752208
5.  Specificity of the STAT4 Genetic Association for Severe Disease Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(5):e1000084.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. A polymorphism in the STAT4 gene has recently been established as a risk factor for SLE, but the relationship with specific SLE subphenotypes has not been studied. We studied 137 SNPs in the STAT4 region genotyped in 4 independent SLE case series (total n = 1398) and 2560 healthy controls, along with clinical data for the cases. Using conditional testing, we confirmed the most significant STAT4 haplotype for SLE risk. We then studied a SNP marking this haplotype for association with specific SLE subphenotypes, including autoantibody production, nephritis, arthritis, mucocutaneous manifestations, and age at diagnosis. To prevent possible type-I errors from population stratification, we reanalyzed the data using a subset of subjects determined to be most homogeneous based on principal components analysis of genome-wide data. We confirmed that four SNPs in very high LD (r2 = 0.94 to 0.99) were most strongly associated with SLE, and there was no compelling evidence for additional SLE risk loci in the STAT4 region. SNP rs7574865 marking this haplotype had a minor allele frequency (MAF) = 31.1% in SLE cases compared with 22.5% in controls (OR = 1.56, p = 10−16). This SNP was more strongly associated with SLE characterized by double-stranded DNA autoantibodies (MAF = 35.1%, OR = 1.86, p<10−19), nephritis (MAF = 34.3%, OR = 1.80, p<10−11), and age at diagnosis<30 years (MAF = 33.8%, OR = 1.77, p<10−13). An association with severe nephritis was even more striking (MAF = 39.2%, OR = 2.35, p<10−4 in the homogeneous subset of subjects). In contrast, STAT4 was less strongly associated with oral ulcers, a manifestation associated with milder disease. We conclude that this common polymorphism of STAT4 contributes to the phenotypic heterogeneity of SLE, predisposing specifically to more severe disease.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic disabling autoimmune disease, most commonly striking women in their thirties or forties. It can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including kidney disease, arthritis, and skin disorders. Prognosis varies greatly depending on these clinical features, with kidney disease and related characteristics leading to greater morbidity and mortality. It is also complex genetically; while lupus runs in families, genes increase one’s risk for lupus but do not fully determine the outcome. It is thought that the interactions of multiple genes and/or interactions between genes and environmental factors may cause lupus, but the causes and disease pathways of this very heterogeneous disease are not well understood. By examining relationships between subtypes of lupus and specific genes, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that the STAT4 gene, very recently identified as a lupus risk gene, predisposes specifically to severe manifestations of lupus, including kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC2377340  PMID: 18516230
6.  Anti-C1q antibodies antedate patent active glomerulonephritis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Autoantibodies against C1q correlate with lupus nephritis. We compared titers of anti-C1q and anti-dsDNA in 70 systemic lupus erythematosus patients with (n = 15) or without (n = 55) subsequent biopsy-proven lupus nephritis.
The 15 patients with subsequent lupus nephritis had anti-C1q assays during clinical flares (mean Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI), 10.0 ± 4.7; range, 3 to 22) before the diagnosis of lupus nephritis (median, 24 months; range 3 to 192). Among the 55 others, 33 patients had active lupus (mean SLEDAI, 10.3 ± 6.2; range, 4 to 30) without renal disease during follow-up (median 13 years; range 2 to 17 years) and 22 had inactive lupus (mean SLEDAI, 0; range, 0 to 3).
Anti-C1q titers were elevated in 15/15 (100%) patients who subsequently developed nephritis (class IV, n = 14; class V, n = 1) and in 15/33 (45%) patients without renal disease (P < 0.001). The median anti-C1q titer differed significantly between the groups (P = 0.003). Anti-C1q titers were persistently positive at the time of glomerulonephritis diagnosis in 70% (7/10) of patients, with no difference in titers compared with pre-nephritis values (median, 147 U/ml; interquartile range (IQR), 69 to 213 versus 116 U/ml; 50 to 284, respectively). Titers decreased after 6 months' treatment with immunosuppressive drugs and corticosteroids (median, 76 U/ml; IQR, 33 to 106) but remained above normal in 6/8 (75%) patients. Anti-dsDNA antibodies were increased in 14/15 (93.3%) patients with subsequent nephritis and 24/33 (72.7%) patients without nephritis (P = ns). Anti-C1q did not correlate with anti-dsDNA or the SLEDAI in either group.
Anti-C1q elevation had 50% positive predictive value (15/30) and 100% (18/18) negative predictive value for subsequent class IV or V lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2714141  PMID: 19515233
7.  Amelioration of human lupus-like phenotypes in MRL/lpr mice by overexpression of interleukin 27 receptor α (WSX-1) 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;67(10):1461-1467.
In the present work, we investigate the role of interleukin (IL)27/IL27 receptor α (Rα) (WSX-1) in the development of autoimmune disorders in the MRL/lpr mouse, which is considered as an experimental model of systemic lupus erythaematosus (SLE) in humans.
We generated two strains of WSX-1 transgenic mice in the MRL/lpr background with different expression levels of WSX-1, and investigated the effect of WSX-1 overexpression on survival, glomerulonephritis and immunological properties.
In comparison with wild type (WT) MRL/lpr and transgenic (Tg) low (TgL) mice, Tg high (TgH) mice exhibited a prolonged lifespan and no apparent development of autoimmune nephritis. Production of anti-dsDNA antibody and total IgG and IgG2a were significantly lower in TgH mice than those of TgL and WT mice. The expressed amounts of interferon (IFN)γ and IL4 mRNA by CD4+ T cells from Tg mice decreased in a dose-dependent fashion. CD4+ splenic lymphocytes in TgH mice were more subject to the IL27-mediated suppression of cytokine production. In vitro stimulation of CD4+ T cells by IL27 resulted in over phosphorylation of STAT3 in TgH cells than in WT cells.
WSX-1 overexpression in the MRL/lpr background rendered the autoimmune prone mice protected from the development of autoimmune diseases. Our results suggest that IL27 signalling may be a therapeutic target against autoimmune diseases, including human SLE.
PMCID: PMC2566534  PMID: 18094002
8.  An ACE inhibitor reduces Th2 cytokines and TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 isoforms in murine lupus nephritis 
Kidney international  2004;65(3):846-859.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as captopril, are used to control hypertension. In patients and animals with primary nephropathies, these agents improve renal function more than that would be expected from their control of hypertension. Here, we examine the effects of treatment with captopril on lupus nephritis and discuss the potential mechanism(s) by which this agent exerts its renoprotective effects.
Lupus-prone, NZB/NZW F1 and MRL-lpr/lpr, mice were treated with captopril or with a control antihypertensive agent, verapamil. Mice were monitored for nephritis, and their sera and tissues analyzed for cytokine and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) expression.
Captopril treatment delayed the onset of proteinuria when administered to prenephritic mice, whereas verapamil did not. Captopril treatment also retarded disease progression when given to lupus mice that had early disease, and even reversed severe proteinuria in at least some older animals with advanced disease. It reduced chronic renal lesions, but had no effect on autoantibody production. The improvement in renal disease correlated with reduced TGF-β expression, particularly of the TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 isoforms, in the kidneys. Interestingly, in vivo or in vitro exposure to captopril reduced splenic levels of type 2 cytokines, interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10, suggesting a possible role of the immune system in captopril-mediated disease modulation.
Since type 2 cytokines are known to promote lupus glomerulosclerosis, decreased IL-4 and IL-10 production in captopril-treated mice may be related to this agent’s renoprotective effects. We argue here that ACE inhibitors not only act as selective TGF-β inhibitors, but also as selective immunomodulators, to improve lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2291513  PMID: 14871404
animal models; autoantibodies; cytokines; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; transforming growth factor β
9.  Metabolic Alterations and Increased Liver mTOR Expression Precede the Development of Autoimmune Disease in a Murine Model of Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51118.
Although metabolic syndrome (MS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are often associated, a common link has not been identified. Using the BWF1 mouse, which develops MS and SLE, we sought a molecular connection to explain the prevalence of these two diseases in the same individuals. We determined SLE- markers (plasma anti-ds-DNA antibodies, splenic regulatory T cells (Tregs) and cytokines, proteinuria and renal histology) and MS-markers (plasma glucose, non-esterified fatty acids, triglycerides, insulin and leptin, liver triglycerides, visceral adipose tissue, liver and adipose tissue expression of 86 insulin signaling-related genes) in 8-, 16-, 24-, and 36-week old BWF1 and control New-Zealand-White female mice. Up to week 16, BWF1 mice showed MS-markers (hyperleptinemia, hyperinsulinemia, fatty liver and visceral adipose tissue) that disappeared at week 36, when plasma anti-dsDNA antibodies, lupus nephritis and a pro-autoimmune cytokine profile were detected. BWF1 mice had hyperleptinemia and high splenic Tregs till week 16, thereby pointing to leptin resistance, as confirmed by the lack of increased liver P-Tyr-STAT-3. Hyperinsulinemia was associated with a down-regulation of insulin related-genes only in adipose tissue, whereas expression of liver mammalian target of rapamicyn (mTOR) was increased. Although leptin resistance presented early in BWF1 mice can slow-down the progression of autoimmunity, our results suggest that sustained insulin stimulation of organs, such as liver and probably kidneys, facilitates the over-expression and activity of mTOR and the development of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3514194  PMID: 23226562
10.  Effective Therapy for Nephritis in (NZB X NZW)F1 Mice With Triptolide and Tripdiolide, the Principal Active Components of the Chinese Herbal Remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(6):1774-1783.
Triptolide and tripdiolide are thought to be active components of the Chinese antirheumatic herbal remedy Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F, which has been shown to be effective in treating murine lupus nephritis. This study was undertaken to examine the therapeutic effect of triptolide and tripdiolide on established lupus nephritis in (NZB X NZW)F1 mice.
(NZB X NZW)F1 mice were treated with vehicle, triptolide, or tripdiolide for 15 weeks beginning at the age of 29 weeks (after the development of lupus nephritis). Body weight, proteinuria, and anti-doublestranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) antibodies were monitored, and the kidney and spleen were assessed histologically. Culture supernatants of spleen mononuclear cells were assayed for cytokines.
By 28 weeks, most (NZB X NZW)F1 mice had developed lupus nephritis. Vehicle-treated mice exhibited progressive proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels, and evidence of severe nephritis. In contrast, proteinuria and BUN levels were significantly reduced in mice treated with either triptolide or tripdiolide as compared with those treated with vehicle. There was no hypoalbuminemia or apparent evidence of lupus nephritis in mice treated with either of the 2 diterpenoids. At 44 weeks of age, the survival rate in mice treated with vehicle (35.7%) was markedly lower than that in mice treated with either triptolide (87.5%) or tripdiolide (88.2%). The mean level of anti-dsDNA antibody in mice treated with tripdiolide was lower than that in the vehicle-treated mice upon completion of the treatment course. Production of tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-6, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 by spleen cells was also decreased after diterpenoid therapy.
Therapy with triptolide or tripdiolide significantly ameliorated lupus nephritis in (NZB X NZW)F1 mice, reduced cytokine and chemokine production, and prolonged survival.
PMCID: PMC3560846  PMID: 18512813
11.  IgG3 deficiency extends lifespan and attenuates progression of glomerulonephritis in MRL/lpr mice 
Biology Direct  2012;7:3.
Antibodies of the IgG3 subclass have been implicated in the pathogenesis of the spontaneous glomerulonephritis observed in mice of the MRL/MpJ-Tnfrsf6lpr (MRL/lpr) inbred strain which have been widely studied as a model of systemic lupus erythematosus We have produced IgG3-deficient (-/-) mice with the MRL/lpr genetic background to determine whether IgG3 antibodies are necessary for or at least contributory to MRL/lpr-associated nephritis.
The gamma3 genotype (+/+ vs. +/- vs. -/-) did not appear to significantly affect serum titers of IgG auto-antibodies specific for double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) or α-actinin. However, while substantial serum titers of IgG3 auto-antibodies specific for double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) or α-actinin were seen in gamma3 +/+ mice, somewhat lower serum titers of these IgG3 auto-antibodies were found in gamma3 +/- mice, and gamma3 -/- mice exhibited baseline concentrations of these auto-antibodies. Analysis of immunoglobulins eluted from snap-frozen kidneys obtained from mice of all three gamma3 genotypes at ~18 weeks of age revealed much higher quantities of IgG in the kidneys from gamma3 +/+ than gamma3 -/- mice, and most IgG eluted from +/+ mice was IgG3. The serum creatinine levels in gamma3 +/+ mice substantially exceeded those of age-matched gamma3 -/- mice after ~21 weeks of age. Histopathological examination of kidneys from mice sacrificed at pre-determined ages also revealed more extensive glomerulosclerosis in gamma3 +/+ or +/- mice than in -/- mice beginning at 21 weeks of age. Survival analysis for IgG3-deficient and IgG3-producing MRL/lpr mice revealed that gamma3 -/- mice lived significantly longer (p = 0.0006) than either gamma3 +/- or +/+ mice. Spontaneous death appeared to be due to irreversible renal failure, because > 85% of glomeruli in kidneys from mice that died spontaneously were obliterated by glomerulosclerosis.
The available evidence suggests that IgG3 deficiency partially protects MRL/lpr mice against glomerulonephritis-associated morbidity and mortality by slowing or arresting the progression to glomerulosclerosis.
This article was reviewed by Pushpa Pandiyan, Irun Cohen, and Etienne Joly.
PMCID: PMC3293080  PMID: 22248284
12.  Interleukin-17 Expression Positively Correlates with Disease Severity of Lupus Nephritis by Increasing Anti-Double-Stranded DNA Antibody Production in a Lupus Model Induced by Activated Lymphocyte Derived DNA 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58161.
Lupus nephritis is one of the most serious manifestations and one of the strongest predictors of a poor outcome in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Recent evidence implicated a potential role of interlukin-17 (IL-17) in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis. However, the correlation between IL-17 expression level and the severity of lupus nephritis still remains incompletely understood. In this study, we found that serum IL-17 expression level was associated with the severity of lupus nephritis, which was evaluated by histopathology of kidney sections and urine protein. Of note, we showed that enforced expression of IL-17 using adenovirus construct that expresses IL-17 could enhance the severity of lupus nephritis, while blockade of IL-17 using neutralizing antibody resulted in decreased severity of lupus nephritis. Consistently, we observed an impaired induction of lupus nephritis in IL-17-deficient mice. Further, we revealed that IL-17 expression level was associated with immune complex deposition and complement activation in kidney. Of interest, we found that IL-17 was crucial for increasing anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) antibody production in SLE. Our results suggested that IL-17 expression level positively correlated with the severity of lupus nephritis, at least in part, because of its contribution to anti-dsDNA antibody production. These findings provided a novel mechanism for how IL-17 expression level correlated with disease pathogenesis and suggested that management of IL-17 expression level was a potential and promising approach for treatment of lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3589375  PMID: 23472149
13.  Differential Genetic Associations for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Based on Anti–dsDNA Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001323.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, systemic autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody formation. Previously published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have investigated SLE as a single phenotype. Therefore, we conducted a GWAS to identify genetic factors associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production, a SLE–related autoantibody with diagnostic and clinical importance. Using two independent datasets, over 400,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied in a total of 1,717 SLE cases and 4,813 healthy controls. Anti–dsDNA autoantibody positive (anti–dsDNA +, n = 811) and anti–dsDNA autoantibody negative (anti–dsDNA –, n = 906) SLE cases were compared to healthy controls and to each other to identify SNPs associated specifically with these SLE subtypes. SNPs in the previously identified SLE susceptibility loci STAT4, IRF5, ITGAM, and the major histocompatibility complex were strongly associated with anti–dsDNA + SLE. Far fewer and weaker associations were observed for anti–dsDNA – SLE. For example, rs7574865 in STAT4 had an OR for anti–dsDNA + SLE of 1.77 (95% CI 1.57–1.99, p = 2.0E-20) compared to an OR for anti–dsDNA – SLE of 1.26 (95% CI 1.12–1.41, p = 2.4E-04), with pheterogeneity<0.0005. SNPs in the SLE susceptibility loci BANK1, KIAA1542, and UBE2L3 showed evidence of association with anti–dsDNA + SLE and were not associated with anti–dsDNA – SLE. In conclusion, we identified differential genetic associations with SLE based on anti–dsDNA autoantibody production. Many previously identified SLE susceptibility loci may confer disease risk through their role in autoantibody production and be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity loci. Lack of strong SNP associations may suggest that other types of genetic variation or non-genetic factors such as environmental exposures have a greater impact on susceptibility to anti–dsDNA – SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can involve virtually any organ system. SLE patients produce antibodies that bind to their own cells and proteins (autoantibodies) which can cause irreversible organ damage. One particular SLE–related autoantibody directed at double-stranded DNA (anti–dsDNA) is associated with kidney involvement and more severe disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have studied SLE itself, not particular SLE manifestations. Therefore, we conducted this GWAS of anti–dsDNA autoantibody production to identify genetic associations with this clinically important autoantibody. We found that many previously identified SLE–associated genes are more strongly associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production than SLE itself, and they may be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity genes. No strong genetic associations were observed for SLE patients who do not produce anti–dsDNA autoantibodies, suggesting that other factors may have more influence in developing this type of SLE. Further investigation of these autoantibody propensity genes may lead to greater insight into the causes of autoantibody production and organ damage in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
The critical role of IFNα in the pathogenesis of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been highlighted in recent years. Exposure of young lupus-prone NZB/W F1 mice to IFNα in vivo leads to an accelerated lupus phenotype that is dependent on T cells and is associated with elevated serum levels of BAFF, IL-6 and TNFα, increased splenic expression of IL-6 and IL-21, formation of large germinal centers and the generation of large numbers of short-lived plasma cells that produce IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibodies. Here we show that both IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibodies are pathogenic in IFNα accelerated lupus and their production can be dissociated by using low dose CTLA4Ig. Only high dose CTLA4Ig attenuates both IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibody production and significantly delays death from lupus nephritis. In contrast, BAFF/APRIL blockade has no effect on germinal centers or the production of IgG anti-dsDNA antibodies but, if given at the time of IFNα challenge, delays the progression of lupus by attenuating systemic and renal inflammation. Temporary remission of nephritis induced by combination therapy with cyclophosphamide (CTX), anti-CD40L antibody and CTLA4Ig is associated with abrogation of germinal centers and depletion of short-lived plasma cells but relapse occurs more rapidly than in conventional NZB/W F1 mice. Our study demonstrates that IFNα renders NZB/W F1 relatively resistant to therapeutic intervention and suggests that the IFN signature should be taken into account when randomizing patients into and analyzing the results of human clinical trials in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3140572  PMID: 21705616
15.  Activation-Induced Deaminase-deficient MRL/lpr mice secrete high levels of protective antibodies against lupus nephritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(4):1086-1096.
We previously generated MRL/lpr mice deficient in the activation-induced deaminase (AID) who lack isotype switching and immunoglobulin hypermutation. These mice have high levels of unmutated (germline) autoreactive IgM yet experienced an increase in survival and an improvement in lupus nephritis that exceeded that of MRL/lpr mice lacking IgG. Herein, we test the hypothesis that high levels of germline autoreactive IgM in these mice confer protection against lupus nephritis.
Autoreactive IgM antibodies of various specificities including against dsDNA from AID-deficient-MRL/lpr mice were given to asymptomatic MRL/lpr mice and the levels of cytokines, proteinuria, immune complex deposition in the kidneys, and glomerulonephritis were examined. Novel AID-deficient MRL/lpr mice that lack any antibodies were generated to compare to AID-deficient-MRL/lpr mice that secrete only IgM.
Anti-dsDNA IgM treatment resulted in a dramatic improvement in lupus nephritis. Other autoreactive IgM’s such as anti-phospholipid and anti-Smith antigen did not alter pathology. Secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines by macrophages, and the levels of inflammatory cells and apoptotic debris in the kidneys were lower in mice receiving anti-dsDNA IgM. Protective IgM derived from AID-deficient-MRL/lpr mice, displayed a distinct B cell repertoire, with a bias towards members of the Vh7183 family.
Anti-dsDNA IgM protected MRL/lpr mice from lupus nephritis likely by stopping the inflammatory cascade leading to kidney damage. A distinct repertoire of Vh usage in anti-dsDNA IgM hybridomas from AID-deficient mice, suggests enrichment in these mice of a dedicated B cell population that secretes unmutated protective IgM.
PMCID: PMC3079514  PMID: 21225690
16.  Modulation of renal disease in autoimmune NZB/NZW mice by immunization with bacterial DNA 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1996;183(4):1389-1397.
Preautoimmune New Zealand Black/White (NZB/NZW) mice immunized with Escherichia coli (EC) double standard (ds) DNA produce antibodies that bind mammalian dsDNA and display specificities similar to spontaneous lupus anti-DNA. Since calf thymus (CT) dsDNA fails to induce these antibodies, these results suggest a special potency of foreign DNA in inducing serological manifestations of lupus in a susceptible host. To assess the effects of DNA immunization on clinical manifestations in NZB/NZW mice, we measured renal disease and survival of mice immunized with either (a) EC dsDNA as complexes with methylated bovine serum albumin (mBSA) in adjuvant; (b) CT dsDNA with mBSA in adjuvant; (c)mBSA alone in adjuvant; or (d) unimmunized. After immunization with EC dsDNA, NZB/NZW mice developed significant levels of anti-dsDNA antibodies. Nevertheless, these mice had less proteinuria, nitrate/nitrite excretion, and glomerular pathology than mice immunized with either mBSA alone, CT dsDNA/mBSA complexes, or unimmunized mice. Survival of the EC dsDNA immunized mice was significantly increased compared with the other mice. Furthermore, immunization of mice after the onset of anti-DNA production and proteinuria stabilized nephritis and prolonged survival. The improvement in renal disease occurred despite the expression of autoantibodies that bound mammalian dsDNA as well as glomerular antigens. These results suggest that bacterial DNA has immunological properties that attenuate murine lupus despite the induction of pathogenic antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2192478  PMID: 8666897
17.  Genetic Approach to Study Lupus Glomerulonephritis 
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)  2012;900:10.1007/978-1-60761-720-4_13.
Genetic and environmental factors contribute in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Lupus nephritis, the most common and severe manifestation of SLE, involves inflammation in the kidney leading to loss of renal function. However, it is not clear what controls the progression of lupus nephritis; this is an important research question, considering its implications in clinical treatment of lupus nephritis. Finding genes that underlie the development and progression of lupus nephritis will shed light on this question. NZM2328 is a spontaneous mouse model for SLE. Most NZM2328 female mice develop autoantibodies (e.g., antinuclear antibody and anti-dsDNA antibody), glomerulonephritis (GN), and severe proteinuria between 5 and 12 months of age. In contrast, C57L/J mice fail to exhibit similar signs of autoimmune disease. We used classical genetics to map and identify SLE genes in offspring generated by backcrossing C57L/J to NZM2328. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) controlling acute (Agnz1 and Agnz2) and chronic (Cgnz1) GN features were uncovered by the analysis. To verify the Cgnz1 and Agnz1 on distal mouse chromosome 1, we produced the NZM23238.C57Lc1 (Lc1) congenic strain, which replaced NZM2328 Cgnz1 and Agnz1 alleles with those derived from C57L/J. The development of acute GN and chronic GN was markedly reduced in Lc1 mice, confirming the linkage findings. Further mapping by the generation of intrachromosomal recombinants of NZM2328.Lc1 support the thesis that acute GN and chronic GN are under separate genetic control.
PMCID: PMC3873643  PMID: 22933074
Congenic strain; End-stage renal disease; Genetic mapping; Genotyping; Glomerulonephritis; Linkage analysis; Lupus nephritis; Marker-assisted selection protocol; Microsatellite marker; NZM2328; Quantitative trait loci; QTL mapping; Speed congenic; Systemic lupus erythematosus
18.  Serum levels of autoantibodies against C-reactive protein correlate with renal disease activity and response to therapy in lupus nephritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(6):R188.
Serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) seldom reflect disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We have previously shown that autoantibodies against neo-epitopes of CRP often occur in SLE, but that this does not explain the modest CRP response seen in flares. However, we have repeatedly found that anti-CRP levels parallel lupus disease activity, with highest levels in patients with renal involvement; thus, we aimed to study anti-CRP in a material of well-characterized lupus nephritis patients.
Thirty-eight patients with lupus nephritis were included. Treatment with corticosteroids combined with cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil or rituximab was started after baseline kidney biopsy. A second biopsy was taken after ≥ 6 months. Serum creatinine, cystatin C, complement, anti-dsDNA, anti-CRP and urinalysis were done on both occasions. Biopsies were evaluated regarding World Health Organisation (WHO) class and indices of activity and chronicity. Renal disease activity was estimated using the British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) index.
At baseline, 34/38 patients had renal BILAG-A; 4/38 had BILAG-B. Baseline biopsies showed WHO class III (n = 8), IV (n = 19), III to IV/V (n = 3) or V (n = 8) nephritis. Seventeen out of 38 patients were anti-CRP-positive at baseline, and six at follow-up. Overall, anti-CRP levels had dropped at follow-up (P < 0.0001) and anti-CRP levels correlated with renal BILAG (r = 0.29, P = 0.012). A positive anti-CRP test at baseline was superior to anti-dsDNA and C1q in predicting poor response to therapy as judged by renal BILAG. Baseline anti-CRP levels correlated with renal biopsy activity (r = 0.33, P = 0.045), but not with chronicity index. Anti-CRP levels were positively correlated with anti-dsDNA (fluorescence-enhanced immunoassay: r = 0.63, P = 0.0003; Crithidia luciliae immunofluorescence microscopy test: r = 0.44, P < 0.0001), and inversely with C3 (r = 0.35, P = 0.007) and C4 (r = 0.29, P = 0.02), but not with C1q (r = 0.14, P = 0.24). No associations with urinary components, creatinine, cystatin C or the glomerular filtration rate were found.
In the present study, we demonstrate a statistically significant correlation between anti-CRP levels and histopathological activity in lupus nephritis, whereas a baseline positive anti-CRP test predicted poor response to therapy. Our data also confirm previous findings of associations between anti-CRP and disease activity. This indicates that anti-CRP could be helpful to assess disease activity and response to therapy in SLE nephritis, and highlights the hypothesis of a pathogenetic role for anti-CRP antibodies in lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3003497  PMID: 20003354
19.  Generation of Gene-Engineered Chimeric DNA Molecules for Specific Therapy of Autoimmune Diseases 
Human Gene Therapy Methods  2012;23(6):357-365.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by the development of self-reactive B and T cells and autoantibody production. In particular, double-stranded DNA-specific B cells play an important role in lupus progression, and their selective elimination is a reasonable approach for effective therapy of SLE. DNA-based vaccines aim at the induction of immune response against the vector-encoded antigen. Here, we are exploring, as a new DNA-based therapy of SLE, a chimeric DNA molecule encoding a DNA-mimotope peptide, and the Fv but not the immunogenic Fc fragment of an FcγRIIb-specific monoclonal antibody. This DNA construct was inserted in the expression vector pNut and used as a naked DNA vaccine in a mouse model of lupus. The chimeric DNA molecule can be expressed in eukaryotic cells and cross-links cell surface receptors on DNA-specific B cells, delivering an inhibitory intracellular signal. Intramuscular administration of the recombinant DNA molecule to lupus-prone MRL/lpr mice prevented increase in IgG anti-DNA antibodies and was associated with a low degree of proteinuria, modulation of cytokine profile, and suppression of lupus nephritis.
Gesheva and colleagues generate and evaluate a naked DNA vaccine consisting of a DNA-mimotope peptide and the Fv fragment of an FccRIIb-specific monoclonal antibody in a mouse model of lupus. Intramuscular administration of the recombinant DNA molecule prevented an increase in IgG anti-DNA antibodies and was associated with a low degree of proteinuria, modulation of cytokine profile, and suppression of lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC4015069  PMID: 23075110
20.  Activation of natural killer T cells in NZB/W mice induces Th1-type immune responses exacerbating lupus 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(8):1211-1222.
In vivo treatment of mice with the natural killer T (NKT) cell ligand, α-galactosylceramide (αGalCer), ameliorates autoimmune diabetes and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) by shifting pathogenic Th1-type immune responses to nonpathogenic Th2-type responses. In the current study, in vivo activation of NKT cells in adult NZB/W mice by multiple injections of αGalCer induced an abnormal Th1-type immune response as compared with the Th2-type response observed in nonautoimmune C57BL/6 mice. This resulted in decreased serum levels of IgE, increased levels of IgG2a and IgG2a anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) Ab’s, and exacerbated lupus. Conversely, treatment of NZB/W mice with blocking anti-CD1d mAb augmented Th2-type responses, increased serum levels of IgE, decreased levels of IgG2a and IgG2a anti-dsDNA Ab’s, and ameliorated lupus. While total CD4+ T cells markedly augmented in vitro IgM anti-dsDNA Ab secretion by splenic B cells, the non–CD1d-reactive (CD1d-αGalCer tetramer-negative) CD4+ T cells (accounting for 95% of all CD4+ T cells) failed to augment Ab secretion. The CD1d-reactive tetramer-positive CD4+ T cells augmented anti-dsDNA Ab secretion about tenfold. In conclusion, activation of NKT cells augments Th1-type immune responses and autoantibody secretion that contribute to lupus development in adult NZB/W mice, and anti-CD1d mAb might be useful for treating lupus.
PMCID: PMC213484  PMID: 14561706
21.  Genetic linkage of IgG autoantibody production in relation to lupus nephritis in New Zealand hybrid mice. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1996;98(8):1762-1772.
F1 hybrids of New Zealand black (NZB) and New Zealand white (NZW) mice are a model of human systemic lupus erythematosus. These mice develop a severe immune com-plex-mediated nephritis, in which antinuclear autoantibodies are believed to play the major role. We used a genetic analysis of (NZB x NZW)F1 x NZW backcross mice to provide insight into whether different autoantibodies are subject to separate genetic influences and to determine which autoantibodies are most important in the development of lupus-like nephritis. The results showed one set of loci that coordinately regulated serum levels of IgG antibodies to double-stranded DNA, single-stranded DNA, total histones, and chromatin, which overlapped with loci that were linked to the production of autoantibodies to the viral glycoprotein, gp70. Loci linked with anti-gp70 compared with antinuclear antibodies demonstrated the strongest linkage with renal disease, suggesting that autoantibodies to gp70 are the major pathogenic antibodies in this model of lupus nephritis. Interestingly, a distal chromosome 4 locus, Nba1, was linked with nephritis but not with any of the autoantibodies measured, suggesting that it contributes to renal disease at a checkpoint distal to autoantibody production.
PMCID: PMC507614  PMID: 8878426
22.  Heterogeneity and clinical significance of glomerular-binding antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1996;98(6):1373-1380.
We used an ELISA employing extracts of human glomerular basement membrane (GBM) to detect, characterize, and evaluate the clinical significance of glomerular-binding IgG in patients with SLE nephritis. Most patients with SLE nephritis exhibited GBM-binding IgG, although many patients with active nonrenal SLE or symptomatic, drug-induced lupus had similar reactivity, albeit at lower levels. IgG binding to GBM in SLE nephritis patients was decreased by DNase pretreatment of GBM, restored after DNase with nuclear antigens (most notably with nucleosomes), inhibited by exogenous nuclear antigens (particularly nucleosomes), but unaffected by exposure of serum to DNase/high ionic strength. The characteristics of IgG binding to GBM largely paralleled the patients' underlying autoimmune response, which was dominated either by antibodies to DNA/nucleosomes or to nucleosomes alone. Binding of lupus sera to nonrenal extracellular matrix (even with nucleosomes) was not equivalent to GBM. Collagenase pretreatment of GBM variably decreased IgG binding, depending on the level and type of binding. SLE nephritis patients with high levels of GBM-binding IgG exhibited more severe disease clinically, but the same renal histopathology, as patients with lower levels. The level of GBM-binding IgG at presentation did not predict the therapeutic response, but decreased in responders to therapy. In sum, glomerular-binding IgG in lupus nephritis binds to epitopes on chromatin, which adheres to GBM in part via collagen. These autoantibodies appear necessary, but not sufficient, for the development of nephritis, and correlate with clinical rather than histopathologic parameters of disease activity.
PMCID: PMC507563  PMID: 8823302
23.  An in vitro assay for detection of glomerular binding IgG autoantibodies in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1996;98(7):1585-1593.
The deposition of anti-dsDNA antibodies in the glomerulus is believed to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of nephritis in SLE. However, an absolute correlation between serum levels of anti-dsDNA antibodies and renal disease has not been found. Recently a glomerular binding assay (GBA) has been developed to detect IgG binding to isolated rat glomeruli. We have used the GBA to study sera from four groups of SLE patients: (A) + anti-dsDNA antibodies, active nephritis; (B) - anti-dsDNA antibodies, active nephritis; (C) + anti-dsDNA antibodies, no nephritis; and (D) - anti-dsDNA antibodies, no nephritis. The serum anti-dsDNA antibodies in group A and group C patients could not be distinguished on the basis of isotype, charge, or cross-reactivity with histones. Nevertheless, the mean intensity of glomerular immunofluorescence was significantly higher in group A than in the three other patient groups and distinguished between patients with serum anti-dsDNA antibodies who had nephritis and those without clinically apparent nephritis. GBA reactivity was unaffected by DNase treatment of sera, but was partially inhibited by preincubation with dsDNA. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that some anti-dsDNA antibodies cross-react with glomerular components and that the presence of this cross-reactivity is associated with, and may be responsible for, the development of nephritis. In addition, we have identified a group of SLE patients with renal disease and typical renal histopathology and immune deposits who do not have serum anti-dsDNA antibodies or antibodies that directly bind to glomeruli in the GBA. The mechanism of renal immune deposition in these patients remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC507591  PMID: 8833907
24.  Anti-dsDNA Antibodies Promote Initiation, and Acquired Loss of Renal Dnase1 Promotes Progression of Lupus Nephritis in Autoimmune (NZBxNZW)F1 Mice 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8474.
Lupus nephritis is characterized by deposition of chromatin fragment-IgG complexes in the mesangial matrix and glomerular basement membranes (GBM). The latter defines end-stage disease.
In the present study we determined the impact of antibodies to dsDNA, renal Dnase1 and matrix metalloprotease (MMP) mRNA levels and enzyme activities on early and late events in murine lupus nephritis. The major focus was to analyse if these factors were interrelated, and if changes in their expression explain basic processes accounting for lupus nephritis.
Early phases of nephritis were associated with chromatin-IgG complex deposition in the mesangial matrix. A striking observation was that this event correlated with appearance of anti-dsDNA antibodies and mild or clinically silent nephritis. These events preceded down-regulation of renal Dnase1. Later, renal Dnase1 mRNA level and enzyme activity were reduced, while MMP2 mRNA level and enzyme activity increased. Reduced levels of renal Dnase1 were associated in time with deficient fragmentation of chromatin from dead cells. Large fragments were retained and accumulated in GBM. Also, since chromatin fragments are prone to stimulate Toll-like receptors in e.g. dendritic cells, this may in fact explain increased expression of MMPs.
These scenarios may explain the basis for deposition of chromatin-IgG complexes in glomeruli in early and late stages of nephritis, loss of glomerular integrity and finally renal failure.
PMCID: PMC2793523  PMID: 20041189
25.  Accelerated Pathological and Clinical Nephritis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus-Prone New Zealand Mixed 2328 Mice Doubly Deficient in TNF Receptor 1 and TNF Receptor 2 via a Th17-Associated Pathway1 
TNF-α has both proinflammatory and immunoregulatory functions. Whereas a protective role for TNF administration in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)-prone (New Zealand Black × New Zealand White)F1 mice has been established, it remains uncertain whether this effect segregates at the individual TNFR. We generated SLE-prone New Zealand Mixed 2328 mice genetically deficient in TNFR1, in TNFR2, or in both receptors. Doubly-deficient mice developed accelerated pathological and clinical nephritis with elevated levels of circulating IgG anti-dsDNA autoantibodies and increased numbers of CD4+ T lymphocytes, especially activated memory (CD44highCD62Llow) CD4+ T cells. We show that these cells expressed a Th17 gene profile, were positive for IL-17 intracellular staining by FACS, and produced exogenous IL-17 in culture. In contrast, immunological, pathological, and clinical profiles of mice deficient in either TNFR alone did not differ from those in each other or from those in wild-type controls. Thus, total ablation of TNF-α-mediated signaling was highly deleterious to the host in the New Zealand Mixed 2328 SLE model. These observations may have profound ramifications for the use of TNF and TNFR antagonists in human SLE and related autoimmune disorders, as well as demonstrate, for the first time, the association of the Th17 pathway with an animal model of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2790862  PMID: 19201910

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