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1.  The TNFα locus is Altered in Monocytes from Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
In systemic lupus erythematosus, TNFα is elevated in the serum and correlates with disease activity and triglyceride levels. The stimuli that drive TNFα in this setting are incompletely understood. This study was designed to evaluate monocyte chromatin at the TNFα locus to identify semi-permanent changes that might play a role in altered expression of TNFα. SLE patients with relatively quiescent disease (mean Physician Global Assessment=0.6) and healthy controls were recruited for this study. TNFα expression was measured by intracellular cytokine staining of different monocyte subsets in patients (n=24) and controls (n=12). Histone acetylation at the TNFα locus was measured by chromatin immunoprecipitation using a normalized quantitative PCR in patients (n=46) and controls (n=24). There were no differences in the overall fractions of cells expressing CD14 in SLE patients compared to controls, however, the fraction of DR+/CD16+ cells expressing CD14 was slightly higher as was true in the monocyte subset defined by DR+/CD11b+. Within the monocyte population defined by physical characteristics and DR+/CD14+, TNFα expressing cells were more frequent in SLE patients compared to controls. Both the fraction of positive cells and the mean fluorescence intensity were higher in patients than controls. Consistent with this was the finding that monocytes from patients had increased TNFα transcripts and more highly acetylated histones at the TNFα locus compared to controls. Furthermore, patients with the highest levels of TNFα histone acetylation were more likely to have had consistently elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rates, and to have required cytotoxic use. Histone acetylation, associated with increased transcriptional competence of TNFα, may play a role in certain inflammatory aspects of the disease.
PMCID: PMC1905860  PMID: 17276734
lupus; epigenetics; histone; TNFalpha
2.  A Novel Type I Interferon-producing Cell Subset in Murine Lupus 
Excess type-I interferons (IFN-I) have been linked to the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Therapeutic use of IFN-I can trigger the onset of SLE and most lupus patients display upregulation of a group of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs). While this “interferon signature” has been linked with disease activity, kidney involvement, and autoantibody production, the source of IFN-I production in SLE remains unclear. Tetramethylpentadecane (TMPD)-induced lupus is at present the only model of SLE associated with excess IFN-I production and ISG expression. Here we demonstrate that TMPD treatment induces an accumulation of immature Ly6Chi monocytes, which are a major source of IFN-I in this lupus model. Importantly, they were distinct from interferon-producing dendritic cells. The expression of IFN-I and ISGs was rapidly abolished by monocyte depletion whereas systemic ablation of dendritic cells (DCs) had little effect. In addition, there was a striking correlation between the numbers of Ly6Chi monocytes and the production of lupus autoantibodies. Therefore, immature monocytes rather than DCs appear to be the primary source of IFN-I in this model of IFN-I dependent lupus.
PMCID: PMC2909121  PMID: 18354236
autoimmunity; systemic lupus erythematosus; monocytes
3.  The SLE Transcriptome Exhibits Evidence of Chronic Endotoxin Exposure and Has Widespread Dysregulation of Non-Coding and Coding RNAs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e93846.
Gene expression studies of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have demonstrated a type I interferon signature and increased expression of inflammatory cytokine genes. Studies of patients with Aicardi Goutières syndrome, commonly cited as a single gene model for SLE, have suggested that accumulation of non-coding RNAs may drive some of the pathologic gene expression, however, no RNA sequencing studies of SLE patients have been performed. This study was designed to define altered expression of coding and non-coding RNAs and to detect globally altered RNA processing in SLE.
Purified monocytes from eight healthy age/gender matched controls and nine SLE patients (with low-moderate disease activity and lack of biologic drug use or immune suppressive treatment) were studied using RNA-seq. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to validate findings. Serum levels of endotoxin were measured by ELISA.
We found that SLE patients had diminished expression of most endogenous retroviruses and small nucleolar RNAs, but exhibited increased expression of pri-miRNAs. Splicing patterns and polyadenylation were significantly altered. In addition, SLE monocytes expressed novel transcripts, an effect that was replicated by LPS treatment of control monocytes. We further identified increased circulating endotoxin in SLE patients.
Monocytes from SLE patients exhibit globally dysregulated gene expression. The transcriptome is not simply altered by the transcriptional activation of a set of genes, but is qualitatively different in SLE. The identification of novel loci, inducible by LPS, suggests that chronic microbial translocation could contribute to the immunologic dysregulation in SLE, a new potential disease mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4010412  PMID: 24796678
4.  Novel expression signatures identified by transcriptional analysis of separated leucocyte subsets in systemic lupus erythematosus and vasculitis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(6):1208-1213.
To optimise a strategy for identifying gene expression signatures differentiating systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis that provide insight into disease pathogenesis and identify biomarkers.
44 vasculitis patients, 13 SLE patients and 25 age and sex-matched controls were enrolled. CD4 and CD8 T cells, B cells, monocytes and neutrophils were isolated from each patient and, together with unseparated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), were hybridised to spotted oligonucleotide microarrays.
Using expression data obtained from purified cells a substantial number of differentially expressed genes were identified that were not detectable in the analysis of PBMC. Analysis of purified T cells identified a SLE-associated, CD4 T-cell signature consistent with type 1 interferon signalling driving the generation and survival of tissue homing T cells and thereby contributing to disease pathogenesis. Moreover, hierarchical clustering using expression data from purified monocytes provided significantly improved discrimination between the patient groups than that obtained using PBMC data, presumably because the differentially expressed genes reflect genuine differences in processes underlying disease pathogenesis.
Analysis of leucocyte subsets enabled the identification of gene signatures of both pathogenic relevance and with better disease discrimination than those identified in PBMC. This approach thus provides substantial advantages in the search for diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in autoimmune disease.
PMCID: PMC2935323  PMID: 19815495
5.  Cell-Specific Type I IFN Signatures in Autoimmunity and Viral Infection: What Makes the Difference? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83776.
Gene expression profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) has revealed a crucial role for type I interferon (IFN) in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, it is unclear how particular leucocyte subsets contribute to the overall type I IFN signature of PBMCs and whole blood samples.Furthermore, a detailed analysis describing the differences in the IFN signature in autoimmune diseases from that observed after viral infection has not been performed to date. Therefore, in this study, the transcriptional responses in peripheral T helper cells (CD4+) and monocyte subsets (CD16− inflammatory and CD16+ resident monocytes) isolated from patients with SLE, healthy donors (ND) immunised with the yellow fever vaccine YFV-17Dand untreated controls were compared by global gene expression profiling.It was striking that all of the transcripts that were regulated in response to viral exposure were also found to be differentially regulated in SLE, albeit with markedly lower fold-change values. In addition to this common IFN signature, a pathogenic IFN-associated gene signature was detected in the CD4+ T cells and monocytes from the lupus patients. IL-10, IL-9 and IL-15-mediated JAK/STAT signalling was shown to be involved in the pathological amplification of IFN responses observed in SLE. Type I IFN signatures identified were successfully applied for the monitoring of interferon responses in PBMCs of an independent cohort of SLE patients and virus-infected individuals. Moreover, these cell-type specific gene signatures allowed a correct classification of PBMCs independent from their heterogenic cellular composition. In conclusion, our data show for the first time that monocytes and CD4 cells are sensitive biosensors to monitor type I interferon response signatures in autoimmunity and viral infection and how these transriptional responses are modulated in a cell- and disease-specific manner.
PMCID: PMC3877094  PMID: 24391825
6.  Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Analysis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Reveals Persistent Hypomethylation of Interferon Genes and Compositional Changes to CD4+ T-cell Populations 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003678.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with known genetic, epigenetic, and environmental risk factors. To assess the role of DNA methylation in SLE, we collected CD4+ T-cells, CD19+ B-cells, and CD14+ monocytes from 49 SLE patients and 58 controls, and performed genome-wide DNA methylation analysis with Illumina Methylation450 microarrays. We identified 166 CpGs in B-cells, 97 CpGs in monocytes, and 1,033 CpGs in T-cells with highly significant changes in DNA methylation levels (p<1×10−8) among SLE patients. Common to all three cell-types were widespread and severe hypomethylation events near genes involved in interferon signaling (type I). These interferon-related changes were apparent in patients collected during active and quiescent stages of the disease, suggesting that epigenetically-mediated hypersensitivity to interferon persists beyond acute stages of the disease and is independent of circulating interferon levels. This interferon hypersensitivity was apparent in memory, naïve and regulatory T-cells, suggesting that this epigenetic state in lupus patients is established in progenitor cell populations. We also identified a widespread, but lower amplitude shift in methylation in CD4+ T-cells (>16,000 CpGs at FDR<1%) near genes involved in cell division and MAPK signaling. These cell type-specific effects are consistent with disease-specific changes in the composition of the CD4+ population and suggest that shifts in the proportion of CD4+ subtypes can be monitored at CpGs with subtype-specific DNA methylation patterns.
Author Summary
We have analyzed DNA methylation, an epigenetic modification that influences gene expression, in lupus patients and control subjects. Our analysis was run in three different immune cell types, T-cells, B-cells, and monocytes, to discern common epigenetic effects in lupus from cell type-specific effects. We have identified a lupus-related reduction in methylation around genes that respond to interferon, a cytokine that induces inflammation in response to pathogens. This hypomethylation suggests that lupus patients are hypersensitive to interferon, as DNA methylation is typically an inhibitor of gene expression. We also find that this hypersensitivity is preserved in lupus patients beyond active stages of the disease, and this may help explain the chronic, recurrent nature of the disease. In addition, we have identified DNA methylation changes in T-cells that suggest an alteration in the proportions of these cells in lupus patients, which may help explain the disease process.
PMCID: PMC3738443  PMID: 23950730
7.  Monocytes from Irf5−/− mice have an intrinsic defect in their response to pristane-induced lupus‡ 
The transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been identified as a human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility gene by numerous joint linkage and genome-wide association studies. Although IRF5 expression is significantly elevated in primary blood cells of SLE patients, it is not yet known how IRF5 contributes to SLE pathogenesis. Recent data from mouse models of lupus indicate a critical role for IRF5 in the production of pathogenic autoantibodies and the expression of Th2 cytokines and type I IFN. In the current study, we examined the mechanism(s) by which loss of Irf5 protects mice from pristane-induced lupus at early time points of disease development. We demonstrate that Irf5 is required for Ly6C(hi) monocyte trafficking to the peritoneal cavity (PC), which is believed to be one of the initial key events leading to lupus pathogenesis in this model. Chemotaxis assays using peritoneal lavage from pristane-injected Irf5+/+ and Irf5−/− littermates support an intrinsic defect in Irf5−/− monocytes. We found the expression of chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CCR2 to be dysregulated on Irf5−/− monocytes and less responsive to their respective ligands, CXCL12 and CCL2. Bone marrow reconstitution experiments further supported an intrinsic defect in Irf5−/− monocytes since Irf5+/+ monocytes were preferentially recruited to the PC in response to pristane. Together, these findings demonstrate an intrinsic role for IRF5 in the response of monocytes to pristane, and their recruitment to the primary site of inflammation that is thought to trigger lupus onset in this experimental model of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3454479  PMID: 22933628
8.  Cytokine-Induced Monocyte Characteristics in SLE 
Monocytes in SLE have been described as having aberrant behavior in a number of assays. We examined gene expression and used a genome-wide approach to study the posttranslational histone mark, H4 acetylation, to examine epigenetic changes in SLE monocytes. We compared SLE monocyte gene expression and H4 acetylation with three types of cytokine-treated monocytes to understand which cytokine effects predominated in SLE monocytes. We found that γ-interferon and α-interferon both replicated a broad range of the gene expression changes seen in SLE monocytes. H4 acetylation in SLE monocytes was overall higher than in controls and there was less correlation of H4ac with cytokine-treated cells than when gene expression was compared. A set of chemokine genes had downregulated expression and H4ac. Therefore, there are significant clusters of aberrantly expressed genes in SLE which are strongly associated with altered H4ac, suggesting that these cells have experienced durable changes to their epigenome.
PMCID: PMC2896681  PMID: 20625490
9.  IRF5 activation in monocytes of SLE patients is triggered by circulating autoantigens independent of type I IFN 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(3):788-798.
Genetic variants of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) are associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IRF5 regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and type I interferons (IFN) believed to be involved in SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the activation status of IRF5 by assessing its nuclear localization in immune cells of SLE patients and healthy donors, and to identify SLE triggers of IRF5 activation.
IRF5 nuclear localization in subpopulations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 14 genotyped SLE patients and 11 healthy controls was assessed using imaging flow cytometry. IRF5 activation and function were examined after ex vivo stimulation of healthy donor monocytes with SLE serum or components of SLE serum. Cellular localization was determined by ImageStream and cytokine expression by Q-PCR and ELISA.
IRF5 was activated in a cell type-specific manner; monocytes of SLE patients had constitutively elevated levels of nuclear IRF5 compared to NK and T cells. SLE serum was identified as a trigger for IRF5 nuclear accumulation; however, neither IFNα nor SLE immune complexes could induce nuclear localization. Instead, autoantigens comprised of apoptotic/necrotic material triggered IRF5 nuclear accumulation in monocytes. Production of cytokines IFNα, TNFα and IL6 in monocytes stimulated with SLE serum or autoantigens was distinct yet correlated with the kinetics of IRF5 nuclear localization.
This study provides the first formal proof that IRF5 activation is altered in monocytes of SLE patients that is in part contributed by the SLE blood environment.
PMCID: PMC3288585  PMID: 21968701
10.  Sialoadhesin deficiency does not influence the severity of lupus nephritis in New Zealand Black x New Zealand White F1 mice 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(6):R175.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory condition with multisystem involvement. One of the key features of the disease is the upregulation of type I interferons, resulting in the so-called “interferon signature”. Recent flow cytometric and transcriptomic studies identified Sialoadhesin (Sn, CD169) as an important interferon-induced blood monocyte biomarker in diseased patients. To investigate a potential causative role of Sn in SLE, we generated NZBWF1 (New Zealand Black x New Zealand White F1) mice lacking Sn and compared onset and progression of disease with NZBWF1 expressing normal levels of Sn.
Sn expression in renal tissues of pre-diseased and diseased NZBWF1 mice was evaluated by Quantitative real time PCR (QPCR) and immunohistochemistry. Sn−/− NZBWF1 mice were generated by speed congenics. Disease severity of Sn+/+ and Sn−/− NZBWF1 mice was assessed by serum immunoassays, flow cytometry, light microscopy and immunohistochemistry.
Renal tissues from proteinuric NZBWF1 mice exhibited a significant upregulation of Sn mRNA and protein expression following disease onset. Further immunohistochemical analysis showed that Sn+ macrophages assumed a distinct periglomerular distribution and, unlike CD68+ macrophages, were not present within the glomeruli. Analysis of disease severity in Sn−/− and Sn+/+ NZBWF1 mice revealed no significant differences in the disease progression between the two groups although Sn-deficient mice showed a more rapid onset of proteinuria.
These data confirm a positive correlation of Sn with disease activity. However, Sn deficiency does not have a significant effect on the severity and progression of lupus nephritis in the NZBWF1 mouse model.
PMCID: PMC3978688  PMID: 24286366
11.  Monocyte surface expression of Fcγ receptor RI (CD64), a biomarker reflecting type-I interferon levels in systemic lupus erythematosus 
More than half of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients show evidence of excess type I interferon (IFN-I) production, a phenotype associated with renal disease and certain autoantibodies. However, detection of IFN-I proteins in serum is unreliable, and the measurement of interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression is expensive and time consuming. The aim of this study was to identify a surrogate marker for IFN-I activity in clinical samples for monitoring disease activity and response to therapy.
Monocyte surface expression of Fcγ receptors (FcγRs), chemokine receptors, and activation markers were analyzed with flow cytometry in whole blood from patients with SLE and healthy controls. FcγR expression also was measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy controls cultured with Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists, cytokines, or serum from SLE patients. Expression of ISGs was analyzed with real-time PCR.
Circulating CD14+ monocytes from SLE patients showed increased surface expression of FcγRI (CD64). The mean fluorescent intensity of CD64 staining correlated highly with the ISG expression (MX1, IFI44, and Ly6E). In vitro, IFN-I as well as TLR7 and TLR9 agonists, induced CD64 expression on monocytes from healthy controls. Exposure of monocytes from healthy controls to SLE sera also upregulated the expression of CD64 in an IFN-I-dependent manner. Decreased CD64 expression was observed concomitant with the reduction of ISG expression after high-dose corticosteroid therapy.
Expression of CD64 on circulating monocytes is IFN-I inducible and highly correlated with ISG expression. Flow-cytometry analysis of CD64 expression on circulating monocytes is a convenient and rapid approach for estimating IFN-I levels in SLE patients.
PMCID: PMC2911874  PMID: 20478071
12.  The innate immune system in SLE: type I interferons and dendritic cells 
Lupus  2008;17(5):394-399.
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have an increased expression of type I interferon (IFN) regulated genes because of a continuous production of IFN-α. The cellular and molecular background to this IFN-α production has started to be elucidated during the last years, as well as the consequences for the innate and adaptive immune systems. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) activated by immune complexes containing nucleic acids secrete type I IFN in SLE. Type I IFN causes differentiation of monocytes to myeloid-derived dendritic cell (mDC) and activation of auto-reactive T and B cells. A new therapeutic option in patients with SLE is, therefore, inhibition of IFN-α, and recent data from a phase I clinical trial suggests that administration of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against anti-IFN-α can ameliorate disease activity.
PMCID: PMC3694565  PMID: 18490415
13.  Serum IL-10 from systemic lupus erythematosus patients suppresses the differentiation and function of monocyte-derived dendritic cells 
Journal of Biomedical Research  2012;26(6):456-466.
The role played by cytokines, other than interferon (IFN)-α, in the differentiation and function of dendritic cells (DCs) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), remains unclear. Serum interleukin-10 (IL-10) levels are generally elevated in SLE patients, which might modulate the differentiation of DCs. In this study, DCs were induced from monocytes either by transendothelial trafficking or by culture with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) + IL-4 + tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. Both systems were used to investigate the effects of elevated serum IL-10 level on DC differentiation in SLE patients. The results showed that monocyte-derived DCs induced by either SLE serum or exogenous IL-10 reduced the expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR and CD80, decreased IL-12p40 level, and increased IL-10 level, and exhibited an impaired capacity to stimulate allogenic T-cell proliferation. These results indicate that serum IL-10 may be involved in the pathogenesis of SLE by modulating the differentiation and function of DCs.
PMCID: PMC3597043  PMID: 23554785
lupus erythematosus systemic (SLE); interleukin-10 (IL-10); dendritic cells (DCs); differentiation
14.  Effects of IRF5 Lupus Risk Haplotype on Pathways Predicted to Influence B Cell Functions 
Both genetic and environmental interactions affect systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) development and pathogenesis. One known genetic factor associated with lupus is a haplotype of the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene. Analysis of global gene expression microarray data using gene set enrichment analysis identified multiple interferon- and inflammation-related gene sets significantly overrepresented in cells with the risk haplotype. Pathway analysis using expressed genes from the significant gene sets impacted by the IRF5 risk haplotype confirmed significant correlation with the interferon pathway, Toll-like receptor pathway, and the B-cell receptor pathway. SLE patients with the IRF5 risk haplotype have a heightened interferon signature, even in an unstimulated state (P = 0.011), while patients with the IRF5 protective haplotype have a B cell interferon signature similar to that of controls. These results identify multiple genes in functionally significant pathways which are affected by IRF5 genotype. They also establish the IRF5 risk haplotype as a key determinant of not only the interferon response, but also other B-cell pathways involved in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3304673  PMID: 22500098
15.  Toll-like Receptor 4 Ligands Induce IFN-α Production By Mouse Conventional Dendritic Cells and Human Monocytes After IFN-β Priming1 
Exacerbation of disease in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with bacterial infection. In conventional dendritic cells (cDCs), the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) ligand bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces interferon (IFN)-β gene expression but does not induce IFN-α. We hypothesized that when cDCs are primed by cytokines, as may frequently be the case in SLE, LPS would then induce the production of IFN-α, a cytokine believed to be important in lupus pathogenesis. Here we show that mouse cDC and human monocytes produce abundant IFN-α following TLR4 engagement if the cells have been pretreated either with IFN-β, or with supernatant from DCs activated by RNA-containing immune complexes from lupus patients. This TLR4-induced IFN-α induction is mediated by both an initial TRIF-dependent pathway and a subsequent MyD88-dependent pathway, in contrast to TLR3-induced IFN-α production which is entirely TRIF-dependent. There is also a distinct requirement for interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), with LPS-induced IFN-α induction being entirely IRF7- and partially IRF5-dependent, in contrast to LPS -induced IFN-β gene induction which is known to be IRF3-dependent but largely IRF7-independent. This data demonstrates a novel pathway for IFN-α production by cDCs and provides one possible explanation for how bacterial infection might precipitate disease flares in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2858919  PMID: 19124725
Dendritic cells; Monocytes; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Cytokines; Lipopolysaccharide
16.  SLE Monocytes are Less Responsive to IL-10 in the Presence of Immune Complexes 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(1):212-218.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic inflammatory disease characterized by autoantibody production and immune complex deposition. Interleukin-10 (IL-10), predominantly an anti-inflammatory cytokine, is paradoxically elevated in SLE patients. We hypothesize that the anti-inflammatory function of IL-10 is impaired in monocytes from SLE patients who are chronically exposed to immune complexes.
CD14+ monocytes were isolated from healthy donors and SLE patients with all experiments done in pairs. Cultured CD14+ cells were treated with heat-aggregated human IgG (HIg 325 μg/ml) in the presence or absence of IL-10 (20 ng/ml). To study gene expression, RNA was extracted 3 hours after treatment. To study cytokine production, supernatants were harvested after 8 hours. To study IL-10 signaling, cell lysates were obtained from CD14+ cells treated with HIg (325 μg/ml) for 1 hour followed by IL-10 (20 ng/ml) treatment for 10 minutes. Western blot was used to assess STAT3 phosphorylation.
SLE monocytes produced more TNFα and IL-6 than control cells when stimulated with HIg. IL-10 had less suppressive effect on HIg-induced TNFα and IL-6 production in SLE monocytes, although IL-10 receptor expression was similar in SLE and control monocytes. HIg suppressed IL-10R expression and altered IL-10 signaling in control monocytes. Like SLE monocytes, IFNα-primed control monocytes stimulated with HIg were also less responsive to IL-10.
HIg and IFNα modulate IL-10 function. In SLE monocytes, which are considered IFNα-primed and chronically exposed to immune complexes, responses to IL-10 are abnormal, limiting the anti-inflammatory effect of this cytokine.
PMCID: PMC3014998  PMID: 20954190
17.  TNF-α and TGF-β Counter-Regulate PD-L1 Expression on Monocytes in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:295.
Monocytes in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are hyperstimulatory for T lymphocytes. We previously found that the normal program for expression of a negative costimulatory molecule programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) is defective in SLE patients with active disease. Here, we investigated the mechanism for PD-L1 dysregulation on lupus monocytes. We found that PD-L1 expression on cultured SLE monocytes correlated with TNF-α expression. Exogenous TNF-α restored PD-L1 expression on lupus monocytes. Conversely, TGF-β inversely correlated with PD-L1 in SLE and suppressed expression of PD-L1 on healthy monocytes. Therefore, PD-L1 expression in monocytes is regulated by opposing actions of TNF-α and TGF-β. As PD-L1 functions to fine tune lymphocyte activation, dysregulation of cytokines resulting in reduced expression could lead to loss of peripheral T cell tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3291882  PMID: 22389764
18.  cAMP responsive element modulator: a critical regulator of cytokine production 
Trends in molecular medicine  2013;19(4):262-269.
T lymphocytes from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) display a complex array of cellular, molecular, and signaling anomalies, many of which have been attributed to increased expression of the transcriptional regulator cAMP responsive element modulator α (CREMα). Recent evidence indicates that CREMα, in addition to its regulatory functions on gene promoters in T lymphocytes, alters the epigenetic conformation of cytokine genes by interacting with enzymes that control histone methylation and acetylation as well as cytosine-phosphate-guanosine (CpG) DNA methylation. This review summarizes the most recent findings on CREM protein expression in various cell types, in particular its effects on T lymphocyte biology in the context of both health and SLE. We emphasize CREMα as a key molecule that drives autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3891595  PMID: 23491535
SLE; systemic lupus erythematosus; cytokine; transcription; epigenetics; CREM; lymphocyte
19.  Metabolic control of the epigenome in systemic Lupus erythematosus 
Autoimmunity  2013;47(4):256-264.
Epigenetic mechanisms are proposed to underlie aberrant gene expression in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that results in dysregulation of the immune system and loss of tolerance. Modifications of DNA and histones require substrates derived from diet and intermediary metabolism. DNA and histone methyltransferases depend on S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) as a methyl donor. SAM is generated from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and methionine by methionine adenosyltransferase (MAT), a redox-sensitive enzyme in the SAM cycle. The availability of B vitamins and methionine regulate SAM generation. The DNA of SLE patients is hypomethylated, indicating dysfunction in the SAM cycle and methyltransferase activity. Acetyl-CoA, which is necessary for histone acetylation, is generated from citrate produced in mitochondria. Mitochondria are also responsible for de novo synthesis of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) for histone demethylation. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation is the dominant source of ATP. The depletion of ATP in lupus T cells may affect MAT activity as well as adenosine monophosphate (AMP) activated protein kinase (AMPK), which phosphorylates histones and inhibits mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR). In turn, mTOR can modify epigenetic pathways including methylation, demethylation, and histone phosphorylation and mediates enhanced T-cell activation in SLE. Beyond their role in metabolism, mitochondria are the main source of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI), which activate mTOR and regulate the activity of histone and DNA modifying enzymes. In this review we will focus on the sources of metabolites required for epigenetic regulation and how the flux of the underlying metabolic pathways affects gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4034124  PMID: 24128087
Epigenetics; genetics; metabolism; SLE
20.  The IFN-regulated gene signature is elevated in SCLE and DLE and correlates with CLASI score 
The British Journal of Dermatology  2012;166(5):971-975.
There is increased expression of type I interferon (IFN)-regulated proteins in the blood and target tissues of patients with cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Patients with SLE have increased IFN-regulated gene expression pointing towards a possible underlying genetic defect.
We measured expression levels of five type I IFN-regulated genes that are highly expressed in SLE in the peripheral blood of patients with CLE and correlated expression levels with cutaneous disease activity.
Peripheral blood was obtained from 10 healthy controls and 30 patients with CLE, including 8 with concomitant SLE. Total RNA was extracted and reverse transcribed into complimentary DNA. Gene expression levels were measured by real time PCR. Gene expression was normalized to GAPDH, standardized to healthy controls and then summed to calculate an IFN score for each patient. Disease activity was assessed with the Cutaneous Lupus Area and Severity Index (CLASI).
Patients with subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) had elevated IFN scores compared to healthy controls regardless of concomitant SLE (p< 0.01 with SLE and p<0.05 without SLE). There was no difference between patients with tumid lupus erythematosus (TLE) and healthy controls. The IFN score correlated with CLASI scores (Spearman’s Rho (r) = 0.55, p = 0.0017).
Patients with SCLE and DLE have an IFN signature, as seen in SLE. The level of gene expression correlates with cutaneous disease activity. These findings support a shared pathogenesis between SLE and some subtypes of CLE.
PMCID: PMC3336025  PMID: 22242767
21.  Genetic Variation near IRF8 is Associated with Serologic and Cytokine Profiles in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Multiple Sclerosis 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(8):10.1038/gene.2013.42.
Alleles of IRF8 are associated with susceptibility to both systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple sclerosis (MS). While high type I interferon (IFN) is thought to be causal in SLE, type I IFN is used as a therapy in MS. We investigated whether IRF8 alleles were associated with type I IFN levels or serologic profiles in SLE and MS. Alleles which have been previously associated with SLE or MS were genotyped in SLE and MS patients. The MS-associated rs17445836G allele was associated with anti-dsDNA autoantibodies in SLE patients (meta-analysis OR=1.92). The same allele was associated with decreased serum IFN activity in SLE patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies, and with decreased type I IFN-induced gene expression in PBMC from anti-dsDNA negative SLE patients. In secondary progressive MS patients, rs17445836G was associated with decreased serum type I IFN. Rs17445836G was associated with increased IRF8 expression in SLE patient B cells. In summary, IRF8 rs17445836G is associated with human autoimmune disease characterized by low type I IFN levels, and this may have pharmacogenetic relevance as type I IFN is modulated in SLE and MS. The association with autoantibodies and increased IRF8 expression in B cells supports a role for rs17445836G in humoral tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3856198  PMID: 23965942
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon; autoantibodies; interferon regulatory factors
22.  Plasma from systemic lupus patients compromises cholesterol homeostasis: a potential mechanism linking autoimmunity to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease 
Rheumatology international  2009;30(5):591-598.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) contributes to morbidity and mortality in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Immunologic derangements may disrupt cholesterol balance in vessel wall monocytes/macrophages and endothelium. We determined whether lupus plasma impacts expression of cholesterol 27-hydroxylase, an anti-atherogenic cholesterol-degrading enzyme that promotes cellular cholesterol efflux, in THP-1 human monocytes and primary human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC). THP-1 monocytes and HAEC were incubated in medium containing SLE patient plasma or apparently healthy control human plasma (CHP). SLE plasma decreased 27-hydroxylase message in THP-1 monocytes by 47 ± 8% (p < 0.008) and in HAEC by 51 ± 5.5% (n = 5, p < 0.001). THP-1 macrophages were incubated in 25% lupus plasma or CHP and cholesterol-loaded (50 µg ml−1 acetylated low density lipoprotein). Lupus plasma more than doubled macrophage foam cell transformation (74 ± 3% vs.35 § 3% for CHP, n = 3, p < 0.001). Impaired cholesterol homeostasis in SLE provides further evidence of immune involvement in atherogenesis. Strategies to inhibit or reverse arterial cholesterol accumulation may benefit SLE patients.
PMCID: PMC3736583  PMID: 19547978
Lupus erythematosus; Systemic; Atherosclerosis; Cholesterol; Macrophage scavenger receptor; Foam cells
23.  Systemic Sclerosis and Lupus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(2):589-598.
To investigate peripheral blood (PB) cell transcript profiles of systemic sclerosis (SSc) and its subtypes in direct comparison with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We investigated PB cell samples from 74 SSc patients, 21 healthy controls, and 17 SLE patients using Illumina Human Ref-8 BeadChips and quantitative polymerase chain reaction confirmation. None of the study participants were receiving immunosuppressive agents other than low-dose steroids and hydroxychloroquine. In addition to conventional statistical and modular analysis, a composite score for the interferon (IFN)–inducible genes was calculated. Within the group of patients with SSc, the correlation of the IFN score with the serologic and clinical subtypes was investigated, as were single-nucleotide polymorphisms in a selected number of IFN pathway genes.
Many of the most prominently overexpressed genes in SSc and SLE were IFN-inducible genes. Forty-three of 47 overexpressed IFN-inducible genes in SSc (91%) were similarly altered in SLE. The IFN score was highest in the SLE patients, followed by the SSc patients, and then the controls. The difference in IFN score among all 3 groups was statistically significant (P < 0.001 for all 3 comparisons). SSc and SLE PB cell samples showed striking parallels to our previously reported SSc skin transcripts in regard to the IFN-inducible gene expression pattern. In SSc, the presence of antitopoisomerase and anti–U1 RNP antibodies and lymphopenia correlated with the higher IFN scores (P = 0.005, P = 0.001, and P = 0.004, respectively); a missense mutation in IFNAR2 was significantly associated with the IFN score.
SLE and SSc fit within the same spectrum of IFN-mediated diseases. A subset of SSc patients shows a “lupus-like” high IFN-inducible gene expression pattern that correlates with the presence of antitopoisomerase and anti–U1 RNP antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2879587  PMID: 20112391
24.  Functional genetic polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with decreased surface expression on dendritic cells and increased serum cytokines in lupus patients 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):596-601.
Hyperactivity of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway is involved in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Immunoglobulin like transcript (ILT3) is an immunohibitory transmembrane molecule which is induced by type I IFNs. ILT3 is expressed by plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs), monocytoid dendritic cells (MDCs), and monocytes/macrophages. Given the pathogenic role of IFN in SLE, we hypothesised that the IFN-induced immunosuppressive ILT3 receptor may be dysfunctional in human SLE.
132 European-derived and 79 Hispanic-American SLE patients were genotyped for two coding-change single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) predicted to interfere with protein folding in ILT3 (rs11540761 and rs1048801). 116 control DNA samples and sera from healthy controls were also studied. We detected associations between ILT3 genotype and serum cytokine profiles. ILT3 expression levels on PDCs and MDCs from 18 patients and 10 controls were studied by flow cytometry.
The rs11540761 SNP in the extracellular region was associated with decreased cell surface expression of ILT3 on circulating MDCs and to a lesser extent PDCs in SLE patients. The cytoplasmically located rs1048801 SNP was not associated with a change in dendritic cells expression of ILT3. Both SNPs were significantly and independently associated with increased levels of serum type I IFN activity in SLE patients. The rs1048801 SNP was also associated with increased serum levels of TNF-α.
Loss-of-function polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with increased inflammatory cytokine levels in SLE, supporting a biological role for ILT3 in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3910490  PMID: 22904259
25.  Interferon-induced protein IFIT4 is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and promotes differentiation of monocytes into dendritic cell-like cells 
Using oligonucleotide microarray, many IFN-inducible genes have been found to be highly expressed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from most patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Among these IFN-inducible genes, IFN-induced protein with tetratricopeptide repeats 4 (IFIT4) is a novel gene whose function is unknown.
In this study we examined the role played by IFIT4 in monocyte differentiation and the correlation between IFIT4 expression and the clinical manifestation of SLE. To this end, we used plasmid transfection, flow cytometry, mixed leucocyte responses, ELISA, quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting.
We found that both IFIT4 mRNA and protein expression levels were significantly higher in PBMCs and monocytes from SLE patients than in those from healthy control individuals. IFIT4 expression was positively correlated with antinuclear antibodies, anti-double-stranded DNA, and anti-Sm auto-immune antibodies in SLE. Patients with SLE exhibiting higher expression of IFIT4 had a higher prevalence of leucopenia, thrombocytopenia and C3/C4 decrease. IFIT4 protein was localized exclusively to the cytoplasm, and it was significantly upregulated by IFN-α in normal PBMCs. To determine the role played by IFIT4 in monocyte differentiation, the monocytic cell line THP-1 was transfected with pEGFP-IFIT4 expression plasmid and stimulated with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor/IL-4 to generate IFIT4-primed dendritic cell-like cells (DCLCs). IFIT4-primed DCLCs acquired morphological characteristics of dendritic cells more quickly, with greater resemblance to dendritic cells, as compared with DCLCs primed with pEGFP-C1 control plasmid trasfection. Furthermore, they exhibited higher expressions of CD40, CD86, CD80, HLA-DR and CD83, along with lower expression of CD14; increased IL-12 secretion; and an increased ability to stimulate T-cell proliferation. In addition, IFIT4-primed DCLCs enhanced IFN-γ secretion (about 2.4-fold) by T cells compared with controls.
Our findings suggest that IFIT4 might play roles in promoting monocyte differentiation into DCLCs and in directing DCLCs to modulate T-helper-1 cell differentiation; these actions might contribute to the autoimmunity and pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2575605  PMID: 18706081

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