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1.  Trait-stratified genome-wide association study identifies novel and diverse genetic associations with serologic and cytokine phenotypes in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R151.
Introduction
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous disorder, characterized by differences in autoantibody profile, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. SLE-associated autoantibodies and high serum interferon alpha (IFN-α) are important heritable phenotypes in SLE which are correlated with each other, and play a role in disease pathogenesis. These two heritable risk factors are shared between ancestral backgrounds. The aim of the study was to detect genetic factors associated with autoantibody profiles and serum IFN-α in SLE.
Methods
We undertook a case-case genome-wide association study of SLE patients stratified by ancestry and extremes of phenotype in serology and serum IFN-α. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in seven loci were selected for follow-up in a large independent cohort of 538 SLE patients and 522 controls using a multi-step screening approach based on novel metrics and expert database review. The seven loci were: leucine-rich repeat containing 20 (LRRC20); protein phosphatase 1 H (PPM1H); lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPAR1); ankyrin repeat and sterile alpha motif domain 1A (ANKS1A); protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type M (PTPRM); ephrin A5 (EFNA5); and V-set and immunoglobulin domain containing 2 (VSIG2).
Results
SNPs in the LRRC20, PPM1H, LPAR1, ANKS1A, and VSIG2 loci each demonstrated strong association with a particular serologic profile (all odds ratios > 2.2 and P < 3.5 × 10-4). Each of these serologic profiles was associated with increased serum IFN-α. SNPs in both PTPRM and LRRC20 were associated with increased serum IFN-α independent of serologic profile (P = 2.2 × 10-6 and P = 2.6 × 10-3 respectively). None of the SNPs were strongly associated with SLE in case-control analysis, suggesting that the major impact of these variants will be upon subphenotypes in SLE.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates the power of using serologic and cytokine subphenotypes to elucidate genetic factors involved in complex autoimmune disease. The distinct associations observed emphasize the heterogeneity of molecular pathogenesis in SLE, and the need for stratification by subphenotypes in genetic studies. We hypothesize that these genetic variants play a role in disease manifestations and severity in SLE.
doi:10.1186/ar3101
PMCID: PMC2945049  PMID: 20659327
2.  Large Scale Analysis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2947-2952.
Background
SLE disease manifestations are highly variable between patients, and the prevalence of individual clinical features differs significantly by ancestry. Serum tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is elevated in some SLE patients, and may play a role in disease pathogenesis. We detected associations between serum TNF-α, clinical manifestations, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α in a large multi-ancestral SLE cohort.
Methods
We studied serum TNF-α in 653 SLE patients, including 214 African-American, 298 European-Americans and 141 Hispanic-American subjects. TNF-α was measured using ELISA, and IFN-α was measured with a functional reporter cell assay. Stratified and multivariate analyses were used to detect associations in each ancestral background separately, with meta-analysis when appropriate.
Results
Serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher in SLE patients than in nonautoimmune controls (p<5.0×10−3 for each ancestral background). High serum TNF-α was positively correlated with high serum IFN-α when tested in the same sample across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR=1.8, p=1.2×10−3). While serum TNF-α levels alone did not differ significantly between SLE patients of different ancestral backgrounds, the proportion of patients with concurrently high TNF-α and high IFN-α was highest in African-Americans and lowest in European-Americans (p=5.0×10−3). Serum TNF-α was not associated with autoantibodies, clinical criteria for the diagnosis of SLE, or age at time of sample.
Conclusions
Serum TNF-α levels are high in many SLE patients, and we observed a positive correlation between serum TNF-α and IFN-α. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis across all ancestral backgrounds, and suggest important cytokine subgroups within the disease.
doi:10.1002/art.34483
PMCID: PMC3396783  PMID: 22488302
systemic lupus erythematosus; tumor necrosis factor alpha; autoantibodies, ancestry
3.  Activation of the Interferon Pathway is Dependent Upon Autoantibodies in African-American SLE Patients, but Not in European-American SLE Patients 
Background: In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), antibodies directed at RNA-binding proteins (anti-RBP) are associated with high serum type I interferon (IFN), which plays an important role in SLE pathogenesis. African-Americans (AA) are more likely to develop SLE, and SLE is also more severe in this population. We hypothesized that peripheral blood gene expression patterns would differ between AA and European-American (EA) SLE patients, and between those with anti-RBP antibodies and those who lack these antibodies.
Methods: Whole blood RNA from 33 female SLE patients and 16 matched female controls from AA and EA ancestral backgrounds was analyzed on Affymetrix Gene 1.0 ST gene expression arrays. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was used to compare the top differentially expressed canonical pathways amongst the sample groups. An independent cohort of 116 SLE patients was used to replicate findings using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR).
Results: Both AA and EA patients with positive anti-RBP antibodies showed over-expression of similar IFN-related canonical pathways, such as IFN Signaling (P = 1.3 × 10−7 and 6.3 × 10−11 in AA vs. EA respectively), Antigen Presenting Pathway (P = 1.8 × 10−5 and 2.5 × 10−6), and a number of pattern recognition receptor pathways. In anti-RBP negative (RBP−) patients, EA subjects demonstrated similar IFN-related pathway activation, whereas no IFN-related pathways were detected in RBP−AA patients. qPCR validation confirmed similar results.
Conclusion: Our data show that IFN-induced gene expression is completely dependent on the presence of autoantibodies in AA SLE patients but not in EA patients. This molecular heterogeneity suggests differences in IFN-pathway activation between ancestral backgrounds in SLE. This heterogeneity may be clinically important, as therapeutics targeting this pathway are being developed.
doi:10.3389/fimmu.2013.00309
PMCID: PMC3787392  PMID: 24101921
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestral background; interferon gamma
4.  Serum Type I Interferon Activity Is Dependent on Maternal Diagnosis in Anti-SSA/Ro–Positive Mothers of Children With Neonatal Lupus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):541-546.
Objective
The type I interferon (IFN) pathway is activated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high serum levels of IFN are associated with anti-SSA/Ro autoantibodies. To investigate the clinical features associated with type I IFN production in vivo, we compared serum IFN activity in individuals with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies who were asymptomatic with that in individuals with clinical manifestations of SLE or Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Methods
Antibody-positive sera from 84 mothers of children with manifestations of neonatal lupus were studied for type I IFN activity, using a functional reporter cell assay. Maternal health status was characterized as asymptomatic, SS, SLE, pauci-SLE, or pauci-SS, based on a screening questionnaire, telephone interview, and review of medical records. The prefix “pauci-” indicates symptoms insufficient for a formal classification of the disease.
Results
Only 4% of asymptomatic mothers had high serum type I IFN activity, compared with 73% with pauci-SLE (P = 5.7 × 10−5), 35% with SLE (P = 0.011), and 32% of patients with SS (P = 0.032). One of the 4 patients with pauci-SS had high levels of IFN. The majority of patients for whom longitudinal data were available had stable type I IFN activity over time, and changes in IFN activity were not clearly accompanied by changes in the clinical diagnosis.
Conclusion
Patients with SLE, patients with pauci-SLE, and patients with SS are more likely to have high serum IFN activity than asymptomatic individuals with SSA/Ro autoantibodies, suggesting that these autoantibodies are insufficient for activation of the type I IFN pathway, and that disease-specific factors are important for type I IFN generation in vivo.
doi:10.1002/art.23191
PMCID: PMC2755051  PMID: 18240214
5.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
Objective
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
Methods
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
Results
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
Conclusions
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200463
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
6.  Autoimmune Disease Risk Variant of IFIH1 Is Associated with Increased Sensitivity to IFN-α and Serologic Autoimmunity in Lupus Patients 
Increased IFN-α signaling is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IFN induced with helicase C domain 1 (IFIH1) is a cytoplasmic dsRNA sensor that activates IFN-α pathway signaling. We studied the impact of the autoimmune-disease–associated IFIH1 rs1990760 (A946T) single nucleotide polymorphism upon IFN-α signaling in SLE patients in vivo. We studied 563 SLE patients (278 African-American, 179 European-American, and 106 Hispanic-American). Logistic regression models were used to detect genetic associations with autoantibody traits, and multiple linear regression was used to analyze IFN-α–induced gene expression in PBMCs in the context of serum IFN-α in the same blood sample. We found that the rs1990760 T allele was associated with anti-dsDNA Abs across all of the studied ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis odds ratio = 1.34, p = 0.026). This allele also was associated with lower serum IFN-α levels in subjects who had anti-dsDNA Abs (p = 0.0026). When we studied simultaneous serum and PBMC samples from SLE patients, we found that the IFIH1 rs1990760 T allele was associated with increased IFN-induced gene expression in PBMCs in response to a given amount of serum IFN-α in anti-dsDNA–positive patients. This effect was independent of the STAT4 genotype, which modulates sensitivity to IFN-α in a similar way. Thus, the IFIH1 rs1990760 Tallele was associated with dsDNA Abs, and in patients with anti-dsDNA Abs this risk allele increased sensitivity to IFN-α signaling. These studies suggest a role for the IFIH1 risk allele in SLE in vivo.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1100857
PMCID: PMC3304466  PMID: 21705624
7.  B Lymphocyte Stimulator Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Higher Circulating Levels in African American Patients and Increased Production after Influenza Vaccination in Patients with Low Baseline Levels 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(12):3931-3941.
Objective
Examine the relationship between circulating B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) levels and humoral responses to influenza vaccination in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, as well as the effect of vaccination on BLyS levels. Clinical and serologic features of SLE that are associated with elevated BLyS levels will also be investigated.
Methods
Clinical history, disease activity measurements and blood specimens were collected from sixty SLE patients at baseline and after influenza vaccination. Sera were tested for BLyS levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies, serum IFN-α activity, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and humoral responses to influenza vaccination.
Results
Thirty percent of SLE patients had elevated BLyS levels, with African American patients having higher BLyS levels than European American patients (p=0.006). Baseline BLyS levels in patients were not correlated with humoral responses to influenza vaccination (p=0.863), and BLyS levels increased post-vaccination only in the subset of patients in the lowest quartile of BLyS levels (p=0.0003). Elevated BLyS levels were associated with increased disease activity as measured by SLEDAI, PGA, and SLAM in European Americans (p=0.035, p=0.016, p=0.018, respectively), but not in African Americans. Elevated BLyS levels were also associated with anti-nRNP (p=0.0003) and decreased 25(OH)D (p=0.018). Serum IFN-α activity was a significant predictor of elevated BLyS in a multivariate analysis (p=0.002).
Conclusion
African American SLE patients have higher BLyS levels regardless of disease activity. Humoral response to influenza vaccination is not correlated with baseline BLyS levels in SLE patients and only those patients with low baseline BLyS levels demonstrate an increased BLyS response after vaccination.
doi:10.1002/art.30598
PMCID: PMC3234134  PMID: 22127709
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Cytokines
8.  Multiple Autoantibodies Display Association with Lymphopenia, Proteinuria, and Cellular Casts in a Large, Ethnically Diverse SLE Patient Cohort 
Autoimmune Diseases  2012;2012:819634.
Purpose. This study evaluates high-throughput autoantibody screening and determines associated systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) clinical features in a large lupus cohort. Methods. Clinical and demographic information, along with serum samples, were obtained from each SLE study participant after appropriate informed consent. Serum samples were screened for 10 distinct SLE autoantibody specificities and examined for association with SLE ACR criteria and subcriteria using conditional logistic regression analysis. Results. In European-American SLE patients, autoantibodies against 52 kD Ro and RNP 68 are independently enriched in patients with lymphopenia, anti-La, and anti-ribosomal P are increased in patients with malar rash, and anti-dsDNA and anti-Sm are enriched in patients with proteinuria. In African-American SLE patients, cellular casts associate with autoantibodies against dsDNA, Sm, and Sm/nRNP. Conclusion. Using a high-throughput, bead-based method of autoantibody detection, anti-dsDNA is significantly enriched in patienets with SLE ACR renal criteria as has been previously described. However, lymphopenia is associated with several distinct autoantibody specificities. These findings offer meaningful information to allow clinicians and clinical investigators to understand which autoantibodies correlate with select SLE clinical manifestations across common racial groups using this novel methodology which is expanding in clinical use.
doi:10.1155/2012/819634
PMCID: PMC3439936  PMID: 22988489
9.  The Autoimmune Disease Risk Allele of UBE2L3 in African American Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Recessive Effect Upon Subphenotypes 
The Journal of Rheumatology  2011;39(1):73-78.
Objective
UBE2L3 is associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis in European ancestry populations, and this locus has not been investigated fully in non-European populations. We studied the UBE2L3 risk allele for association with SLE, interferon-α (IFN-α), and autoantibodies in a predominantly African American SLE cohort.
Methods
We studied 395 patients with SLE and 344 controls. The UBE2L3 rs5754217 polymorphism was genotyped using Taqman primer-probe sets, and IFN-α was measured using a reporter cell assay.
Results
The UBE2L3 rs5754217 T allele was strongly enriched in African American patients with anti-La antibodies as compared to controls, and a recessive model was the best fit for this association (OR 2.55, p = 0.0061). Serum IFN-α also demonstrated a recessive association with the rs5754217 genotype in African American patients, and the TT/anti-La-positive patients formed a significantly high IFN-α subgroup (p = 0.0040). Similar nonstatistically significant patterns of association were observed in the European American patients with SLE. Case-control analysis did not show large allele frequency differences, supporting the idea that this allele is most strongly associated with anti-La-positive patients.
Conclusion
This pattern of recessive influence within a subgroup of patients may explain why this allele does not produce a strong signal in standard case-control studies, and subphenotypes should be included in future studies of UBE2L3. The interaction we observed between UBE2L3 genotype and autoantibodies upon serum IFN-α suggests a biological role for this locus in patients with SLE in vivo.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.110590
PMCID: PMC3304461  PMID: 22045845
SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS; GENETICS INTERFERON-α; AUTOANTIBODIES; UBE2L3 GENOTYPE
10.  Type I interferon correlates with serological and clinical manifestations of SLE 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2005;64(12):1692-1697.
Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease affecting multiple organ systems triggered by the production of autoantibodies. Previous clinical studies in humans and murine models suggest that type I interferons (IFNs) are important for the initiation and potentiation of SLE activity.
Methods: 65 consecutive patients with SLE were identified from the University of California, San Francisco Lupus Clinic with moderate-severe disease activity. 94 serological samples were collected. Type I IFN levels and the ability of plasma to induce expression of several surface markers of dendritic cell maturation were measured.
Results: Type I IFN levels correlated with the presence of cutaneous manifestations, and there was a trend towards correlation with renal disease. No correlation was found between type I IFN levels and neurological disease. Type I IFN levels correlated positively with the SLEDAI score and anti-dsDNA levels and inversely with C3 levels. Interestingly, type I IFN levels were highest in African American patients. SLE plasma also induced the expression of MHC class I, CD38, and CD123 on monocytes, and was blocked by the addition of a monoclonal antibody to IFNAR1.
Conclusions: The pathogenic role of type I IFN is suggested by the induction of cell surface markers for dendritic cell maturation. The potential therapeutic utility of antibodies directed to either type I IFN or IFNAR1/IFNAR2 may be of interest in further studies.
doi:10.1136/ard.2004.033753
PMCID: PMC1755300  PMID: 15843451
11.  Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e491.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a serious systemic autoimmune disorder that affects multiple organ systems and is characterized by unpredictable flares of disease. Recent evidence indicates a role for type I interferon (IFN) in SLE pathogenesis; however, the downstream effects of IFN pathway activation are not well understood. Here we test the hypothesis that type I IFN-regulated proteins are present in the serum of SLE patients and correlate with disease activity.
Methods and Findings
We performed a comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE and identified dysregulated levels of 30 cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and soluble receptors. Particularly striking was the highly coordinated up-regulation of 12 inflammatory and/or homeostatic chemokines, molecules that direct the movement of leukocytes in the body. Most of the identified chemokines were inducible by type I IFN, and their levels correlated strongly with clinical and laboratory measures of disease activity.
Conclusions
These data suggest that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed in human SLE. Furthermore, the levels of serum chemokines may serve as convenient biomarkers for disease activity in lupus.
A comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE suggests that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The term “lupus,” meaning wolf in Latin, is often used as an abbreviation for the disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The name may have been given because some people with SLE have a rash that slightly resembles a wolf's face. The condition affects around 50 to 100 people per 100,000, and is much more common in women than men. SLE is a complicated disease that comes about when antibodies inappropriately attack the body's own connective tissues, although it is not known why this happens. Symptoms vary between different people; the disease may get better and then worse, without explanation; and can affect many different organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, and brain and nervous system. SLE is difficult for doctors to diagnose. Although the disease cannot be cured, patients who are diagnosed with SLE can be treated for their symptoms, and the right management can slow progress of the disease. One area of SLE research focuses on finding “molecular markers” (e.g., proteins or other compounds) that could be tested for in the blood. Researchers hope this would help doctors to more accurately diagnose SLE initially, and then also help to track progress in a patient's condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Gene expression” is a term meaning the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into the structures and functions of a cell. These investigators had found in previous studies that certain genes were more “highly expressed” in the blood cells of patients with SLE. Some of these genes were already known to be regulated by interferons (a group of proteins, produced by certain blood cells, that are important in helping to defend against viral infections). The investigators performing this study wanted to understand more clearly the role of interferon in SLE and to see whether the genes that are more highly expressed in patients with SLE go on to produce higher levels of protein, which might then provide useful markers for monitoring the condition.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research project was a “case-control” study, in which the researchers compared the levels of certain proteins in the blood of people who had SLE with the levels in people who did not have the condition. Thirty people were recruited as cases, from a group of patients with SLE who have been under evaluation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine since 1987. Fifteen controls were recruited from a group of healthy people of similar age and sex as the patients with SLE; everyone involved in the study gave their consent to take part. Blood samples were taken from each individual, and the serum (liquid component of blood) was separated out. The serum levels of 160 different blood proteins were then measured. When comparing levels of blood proteins between the groups, the researchers found that 30 specific proteins were present at higher or lower levels in the SLE-affected patients. Many of these proteins are cytokines, which are regulated by interferons and are involved in the process of “signaling” within the immune system. A few proteins were found at lower levels. Levels of the interferon-regulated proteins were, on average, seen at higher levels in people whose condition was more severe.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that patients with SLE are likely to have a very different pattern of regulation of certain proteins within the blood, particularly the proteins involved in signaling within the immune system. The authors propose that these proteins may be involved in the progression of the disease. There is also the possibility that some of these proteins may prove useful in diagnostic tests, or in tests for monitoring how the disease progresses. However, before any such tests could be used in clinical practice, they would need to be further developed and then thoroughly tested in clinical trials.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
Patient information from the UK National Health Service on systemic lupus erythematosus
Patient handout from the US National Institutes of Health
MedlinePLUS encyclopedia entry on lupus
Information on lupus from the UK Arthritis Research Campaign
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
PMCID: PMC1702557  PMID: 17177599
12.  Plasma levels of galectin-3-binding protein reflect type I interferon activity and are increased in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2014;1(1):e000026.
Objective
Simple measures of type I interferon (IFN) activity constitute highly attractive biomarkers in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We explore galectin-3-binding protein (G3BP) as a novel measure of type I IFN activity and serum/plasma biomarker in large independent cohorts of patients with SLE and controls.
Methods
Serum and plasma G3BP concentrations were quantified using ELISA. Type I IFN activity was assessed by Mx1 reporter gene expression assays and correlated to serum G3BP concentrations (SLE-IFN-α, n=26 and healthy controls (HCs), n=10). Plasma G3BP concentrations in the SLE-Denmark (DK) (n=70) and SLE-Sweden (SE) (n=68) cohorts were compared with the HC-DK (n=47) and HC-SE (n=50) cohorts and patients with systemic sclerosis (n=111). In 15 patients with SLE, serum G3BP in consecutive samples was correlated to disease activity. Correlation analysis between G3BP, clinical parameters including disease activity in the four SLE cohorts was performed.
Results
G3BP concentrations correlated significantly with the IFN-α reporter gene assay (r=0.56, p=0.0005) and with IFN-α gene expression scores (r=0.54, p=0.0002). Plasma concentrations were significantly increased in the SLE-DK and SLE-SE cohorts compared with HCs and patients with systemic sclerosis (p<0.0001 and p=0.0009). G3BP concentrations correlated with disease activity measures in the SLE-DK- and SLE-IFN-α cohorts (p=0.0004 and p=0.05) but not in the SLE-SE cohort (p=0.98). Markedly temporal variation was observed in G3BP levels in the consecutive SLE-samples and was significantly associated with changes in disease activity (r=0.44, p=0.014).
Conclusions
G3BP plasma levels reflect type I IFN activity and are increased in SLE. Associations with disease activity or clinical manifestations are uncertain. This study highlights G3BP as a convenient measure of type I IFN-dependent gene activation.
doi:10.1136/lupus-2014-000026
PMCID: PMC4246916  PMID: 25452879
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Systemic Sclerosis; Interferon; Lupus Nephritis; Autoantibodies
13.  Association of Endogenous Anti–Interferon-α Autoantibodies With Decreased Interferon-Pathway and Disease Activity in Patients With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2407-2415.
Objective
Numerous observations implicate interferon-α (IFNα) in the pathophysiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); however, the potential impact of endogenous anti-IFNα autoantibodies (AIAAs) on IFN-pathway and disease activity is unclear. The aim of this study was to characterize IFN-pathway activity and the serologic and clinical profiles of AIAA-positive patients with SLE.
Methods
Sera obtained from patients with SLE (n = 49), patients with rheumatoid arthritis (n = 25), and healthy control subjects (n = 25) were examined for the presence of AIAAs, using a biosensor immunoassay. Serum type I IFN bioactivity and the ability of AIAA-positive sera to neutralize IFNα activity were determined using U937 cells. Levels of IFN-regulated gene expression in peripheral blood were determined by microarray, and serum levels of BAFF, IFN-inducible chemokines, and other autoantibodies were measured using immunoassays.
Results
AIAAs were detected in 27% of the serum samples from patients with SLE, using a biosensor immunoassay. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis identified 2 subgroups of patients, IFNlow and IFNhigh, that differed in the levels of serum type I IFN bioactivity, IFN-regulated gene expression, BAFF, anti-ribosomal P, and anti-chromatin autoantibodies, and in AIAA status. The majority of AIAA-positive patients had significantly lower levels of serum type I IFN bioactivity, reduced downstream IFN-pathway activity, and lower disease activity compared with the IFNhigh patients. AIAA-positive sera were able to effectively neutralize type I IFN activity in vitro.
Conclusion
Patients with SLE commonly harbor AIAAs. AIAA-positive patients have lower levels of serum type I IFN bioactivity and evidence for reduced downstream IFN-pathway and disease activity. AIAAs may influence the clinical course in SLE by blunting the effects produced by IFNα.
doi:10.1002/art.30399
PMCID: PMC4028124  PMID: 21506093
14.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001323
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
15.  Anti-Interferon Autoantibodies in Autoimmune Polyendocrinopathy Syndrome Type 1 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e289.
Background
The autoimmune regulator (AIRE) gene influences thymic self-tolerance induction. In autoimmune polyendocrinopathy syndrome type 1 (APS1; OMIM 240300), recessive AIRE mutations lead to autoimmunity targetting endocrine and other epithelial tissues, although chronic candidiasis usually appears first. Autoimmunity and chronic candidiasis can associate with thymomas as well. Patients with these tumours frequently also have high titre immunoglobulin G autoantibodies neutralising type I interferon (IFN)–α and IFN-ω, which are secreted signalling proteins of the cytokine superfamily involved in both innate and adaptive immunity.
Methods and Findings
We tested for serum autoantibodies to type I IFNs and other immunoregulatory cytokines using specific binding and neutralisation assays. Unexpectedly, in 60/60 Finnish and 16/16 Norwegian APS1 patients with both AIRE alleles mutated, we found high titre neutralising immunoglobulin G autoantibodies to most IFN-α subtypes and especially IFN-ω (60% homologous to IFN-α)—mostly in the earliest samples. We found lower titres against IFN-β (30% homologous to IFN-α) in 23% of patients; two-thirds of these (from Finland only) also had low titres against the distantly related “type III IFN” (IFN-λ1; alias interleukin-29). However, autoantibodies to the unrelated type II IFN, IFN-γ, and other immunoregulatory cytokines, such as interleukin-10 and interleukin-12, were much rarer and did not neutralise.
Neutralising titres against type I IFNs averaged even higher in patients with APS1 than in patients with thymomas. Anti–type I IFN autoantibodies preceded overt candidiasis (and several of the autoimmune disorders) in the informative patients, and persisted for decades thereafter. They were undetectable in unaffected heterozygous relatives of APS1 probands (except for low titres against IFN-λ1), in APS2 patients, and in isolated cases of the endocrine diseases most typical of APS1, so they appear to be APS1-specific.
Looking for potentially autoimmunising cell types, we found numerous IFN-α+ antigen-presenting cells—plus strong evidence of local IFN secretion—in the normal thymic medulla (where AIRE expression is strongest), and also in normal germinal centres, where it could perpetuate these autoantibody responses once initiated. IFN-α2 and IFN-α8 transcripts were also more abundant in antigen-presenting cells cultured from an APS1 patient's blood than from age-matched healthy controls.
Conclusions
These apparently spontaneous autoantibody responses to IFNs, particularly IFN-α and IFN-ω, segregate like a recessive trait; their high “penetrance” is especially remarkable for such a variable condition. Their apparent restriction to APS1 patients implies practical value in the clinic, e.g., in diagnosing unusual or prodromal AIRE-mutant patients with only single components of APS1, and possibly in prognosis if they prove to predict its onset. These autoantibody responses also raise numerous questions, e.g., about the rarity of other infections in APS1. Moreover, there must also be clues to autoimmunising mechanisms/cell types in the hierarchy of preferences for IFN-ω, IFN-α8, IFN-α2, and IFN-β and IFN-λ1.
Almost all of nearly 100 APS1 patients studied made large amounts of auto-antibodies that blocked the function of IFN-α and IFN-ω. The antibodies appeared early during development of the disease and may play a role in its etiology.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The human body is under constant attack by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, but the immune system usually prevents these pathogens from causing disease. To be effective, the immune system has to respond rapidly to foreign antigens (bits of protein specific to pathogens) while ignoring self-antigens. If tolerance to self-antigens breaks down, autoimmunity develops, often causing disease. There are many common autoimmune diseases—type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis, for example—but because these involve defects in many genes as well as environmental factors, the details of how autoimmunity develops remain unclear. Autoimmune polyendocrinopathy syndrome type 1 (APS1), however, is caused by defects in a single gene. Patients with this rare disease characteristically have defects (or mutations) in both copies of a gene called AIRE (for autoimmune regulator). In normal people, the protein product of this gene helps to establish tolerance to a subset of self-antigens. People carrying AIRE mutations make an autoimmune response against some of their own tissues, typically the endocrine (hormone-producing) tissues that control body metabolism. A major component of this autoimmune response are “autoantibodies” (antibodies are immune molecules that normally recognize and attack foreign substances, whereas autoantibodies are directed against the body's own molecules).
Why Was This Study Done?
For a diagnosis of APS1, a patient must have at least two of the following symptoms: recurrent, localized yeast infections (usually the first symptom of the disease to appear in early childhood), hypoparathyroidism (failure of the gland that controls calcium levels in the body), and Addison disease (failure of the steroid-producing adrenal glands, which help the body respond to stress). The researchers who did this study had previously noticed that these yeast infections and autoimmunity (usually against muscle) can also occur in patients with tumors of the thymus (thymomas). The thymus is the organ that generates immune cells called T cells. Generation of the T cell repertoire in the thymus involves selection of those T cells that recognize only foreign substances. T cells that can react against self-antigens are eliminated, and the AIRE gene is thought to be involved in this “education process.” Like those with APS1, patients with thymomas make autoantibodies not only against target organs (especially muscle in their case), but also against interferon alpha (IFN-α) and interferon omega (IFN-ω), two secreted immune regulators. The researchers wanted to know if patients with APS1 also make autoantibodies against interferons, because this could provide insights into how autoimmunity develops in APS1 and other autoimmune diseases.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers tested blood from nearly 100 APS1 patients for antibodies to IFN-α, IFN-ω, and other immunoregulatory cytokines. They found that almost all patients made large amounts of antibodies that blocked the function of IFN-α and IFN-ω; some also made lower amounts of antibodies against two related interferons, but none made blocking antibodies against unrelated interferons or other immune regulators. For many patients, serum samples were available at different times during their disease, which allowed the researchers to show that the antibodies appeared early in disease development, before the onset of yeast infections or damage to endocrine tissues, and their production continued for decades as the patient aged. Furthermore, only patients with APS1 made these antibodies—they were absent in patients with Addison disease alone, for example.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The discovery that autoantibodies to IFN-α and IFN-ω are made persistently in patients with APS1 suggests ways in which autoimmunity develops in these patients. These can now be investigated further both in patients and in animal models of the disease. The discovery also has practical implications. Measurement of these autoantibodies might help some APS1 patients by allowing earlier diagnosis—and prompter treatment—than in current practice. The levels of these autoantibodies might also help to predict the time course of APS1 in individual patients, although more studies will be needed to check this out. Finally, if future studies show that interferon autoantibodies are responsible for the patients' susceptibility to yeast infections (which seems plausible), treatment with IFN-γ, an interferon to which APS1 patients do not make autoantibodies, might provide an alternative way to deal with this problem.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030289.
• MedlinePlus pages on autoimmune diseases
• Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man page on APS1
• Links to patient information on APS1 from the Stanford Health Library
• Wikipedia page on autoendocrine polyendocrinopathy (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
• Information on autoimmunity from the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030289
PMCID: PMC1475653  PMID: 16784312
16.  Linkage of Type I Interferon Activity and TNF-Alpha Levels in Serum with Sarcoidosis Manifestations and Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29126.
Background
Both type I interferon (IFN), also known as IFN-α and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of sarcoidosis. We investigated serum levels of these cytokines in a large multi-ancestral sarcoidosis population to determine correlations between cytokine levels and disease phenotypes.
Methods
We studied serum samples from 98 patients with sarcoidosis, including 71 patients of African-American ancestry and 27 patients of European-American ancestry. Serum type I IFN was measured using a sensitive reporter cell assay and serum TNF-α was measured using a commercial ELISA kit. Clinical data including presence or absence of neurologic, cardiac, and severe pulmonary manifestations of sarcoidosis were abstracted from medical records. Twenty age-matched non-autoimmune controls were also studied from each ancestral background. Differences in cytokine levels between groups were analyzed with Mann-Whitney U test, and correlations were assessed using Spearman's rho. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to detect associations between cytokines and clinical manifestations.
Results
Significant differences in cytokine levels were observed between African- and European-American patients with sarcoidosis. In African-Americans, serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher relative to matched controls (P = 0.039), and patients with neurologic disease had significantly higher TNF-α than patients lacking this manifestation (P = 0.022). In European-Americans, serum type I IFN activity was higher in sarcoidosis cases as compared to matched controls, and patients with extra-pulmonary disease represented a high serum IFN subgroup (P = 0.0032). None of the associations observed were shared between the two ancestral groups.
Conclusions
Our data indicate that significant associations between serum levels of TNF-α and type I IFN and clinical manifestations exist in a sarcoidosis cohort that differ significantly by self-reported ancestry. In each ancestral background, the cytokine elevated in patients with sarcoidosis was also associated with a particular disease phenotype. These findings may relate to ancestral differences in the molecular pathogenesis of this heterogeneous disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029126
PMCID: PMC3237595  PMID: 22195005
17.  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.
doi:10.1038/gene.2013.42
PMCID: PMC3856198  PMID: 23965942
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon; autoantibodies; interferon regulatory factors
18.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003336
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
19.  Selective Involvement of the Amygdala in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e499.
Background
Antibodies specifically affect the amygdala in a mouse model of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The aim of our study was to investigate whether there is also specific involvement of the amygdala in human SLE.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed a group of 37 patients with neuropsychiatric SLE (NP-SLE), 21 patients with SLE, and a group of 12 healthy control participants with diffusion weighted imaging (DWI). In addition, in a subset of eight patients, plasma was available to determine their anti-NMDAR antibody status. From the structural magnetic resonance imaging data, the amygdala and the hippocampus were segmented, as well as the white and gray matter, and the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was retrieved. ADC values between controls, patients with SLE, and patients with NP-SLE were tested using analysis of variance with post-hoc Bonferroni correction. No differences were found in the gray or white matter segments. The average ADC in the amygdala of patients with NP-SLE and SLE (940 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.006 and 949 × 10−6 mm2/s; p = 0.019, respectively) was lower than in healthy control participants (1152 × 10−6 mm2/s). Mann-Whitney analysis revealed that the average ADC in the amygdala of patients with anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 802 × 10−6 mm2/s) was lower (p = 0.029) than the average ADC of patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies (n = 4; 979 × 10−6 mm2/s) and also lower (p = 0.001) than in healthy control participants.
Conclusions
This is the first study to our knowledge to observe damage in the amygdala in patients with SLE. Patients with SLE with anti-NMDAR antibodies had more severe damage in the amygdala compared to SLE patients without anti-NMDAR antibodies.
Patients with SLE who also had antibodies against the NMDA receptor had more severe damage in the amygdala as compared with patients with SLE without these antibodies.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The human body is continually attacked by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites, but the immune system usually prevents these pathogens from causing disease. To be effective, the immune system has to respond rapidly to foreign antigens (bits of proteins that are unique to the pathogen) but ignore self-antigens. In autoimmune diseases, this ability to discriminate between self and nonself fails for unknown reasons, and the immune system begins to destroy human tissues. In the chronic autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), the immune system attacks the skin, joints, nervous system, and many other organs. Patients with SLE make numerous “autoantibodies” (antibodies are molecules made by the immune system that recognize and attack antigens; autoantibodies attack self-antigens). These autoantibodies start the attack on the body; then other parts of the immune system join in, causing inflammation and forming deposits of immune cells, both of which damage tissues. Common symptoms of SLE include skin rashes and arthritis, but some patients develop NP-SLE, a form of SLE that includes neuropsychiatric symptoms such as amnesia, dementia, mood disorders, strokes, and seizures. There is no cure for SLE, but mild cases are controlled with ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; severe cases are kept in check with corticosteroids and other powerful immunosuppressants.
Why Was This Study Done?
In most of the tissues affected by SLE, the damage done by autoantibodies and immune cells can be seen when the tissues are examined with a microscope. But there is little microscopic damage visible in the brains of patients with NP-SLE. More generally, it is unclear how or even whether the immune system affects mental functions and emotion. In this study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate whether there are any structural changes in the brains of patients with NP-SLE that could explain their neuropsychiatric symptoms. They have also examined whether any changes in the brain can be linked to the presence of autoantibodies that recognize a protein called the NMDA receptor (anti-NMDAR antibodies) that is present on brain cells.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used an MRI technique called diffusion weighted imaging to examine the brains of several patients with NP-SLE or SLE and the brains of several healthy individuals. Using this technique, it is possible to quantify the amount of structural damage in different regions of the brain. The researchers found no differences in most areas of the brain between the two groups of patients and the healthy controls. However, there were clear signs of damage in the amygdala (the part of the brain that regulates emotions and triggers responses to danger) in the patients with SLE or NP-SLE when compared to the control individuals. The researchers also found that the damage was more severe in the patients who had anti-NMDAR autoantibodies than in those that did not have these autoantibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that autoantibodies produced by patients with SLE specifically damage the amygdala, a discovery that helps to explain some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of this condition. Previous work has shown that the treatment of mice with anti-NMDAR antibodies and epinephrine, a stress hormone that causes leaks in the blood-brain barrier (antibodies can't usually get into the brain because of this barrier), results in damage to the amygdala and a deficient response to dangerous stimuli. The researchers suggest that a similar series of events might happen in SLE—patients often mention that a period of major stress precedes the development of symptoms. To provide stronger evidence for such a scenario, a detailed study of how stress relates to neuropsychiatric symptoms is needed. The damage to the amygdala (and the lack of damage elsewhere in the brain) and the possible association between brain damage and anti-NMDAR antibodies seen in this small study also need to be confirmed in more patients. Nevertheless, these findings provide an intriguing glimpse into the interplay between the immune system and the brain and into how stress might lead to physical damage in the brain.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030499.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia pages on autoimmunity and on systemic lupus erythematosus
US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases booklet for patients with SLE
American College of Rheumatology information for patients on SLE
NHS Direct Online Health Encyclopedia pages on SLE
The Lupus Foundation of America information and support for patients with SLE
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030499
PMCID: PMC1702559  PMID: 17177602
20.  Association of the IRF5 Risk Haplotype With High Serum Interferon-α Activity in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(8):2481-2487.
Objective
A haplotype of the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene has been associated with the risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and our previous studies have demonstrated that high levels of serum interferon-α (IFNα) activity are a heritable risk factor for SLE. The aim of this study was to determine whether the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype mediates the risk of SLE by predisposing patients to the development of high levels of serum IFNα activity.
Methods
IFNα levels in 199 SLE patients of European and Hispanic ancestry were measured with a sensitive functional reporter cell assay. The rs2004640, rs3807306, rs10488631, and rs2280714 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5 were genotyped in these patients. Haplotypes were categorized as SLE risk, neutral, or protective based on published data.
Results
SLE patients with risk/risk and risk/neutral IRF5 genotypes had higher serum IFNα activity than did those with protective/protective and neutral/protective genotypes (P = 0.025). This differential effect of IRF5 genotype on serum IFNα levels was driven largely by SLE patients who were positive for either anti–RNA binding protein (anti-RBP) or anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) autoantibodies (P = 0.012 for risk/risk or risk/neutral versus protective/protective or neutral/protective). The rs3807306 genotype was independently associated with high serum IFNα in this autoantibody group. We found no difference in IFNα activity according to IRF5 genotype in patients lacking either type of autoantibody or in patients positive for both classes of autoantibody.
Conclusion
The IRF5 SLE risk haplotype is associated with higher serum IFNα activity in SLE patients, and this effect is most prominent in patients positive for either anti-RBP or anti-dsDNA autoantibodies. This study demonstrates the biologic relevance of the SLE risk haplotype of IRF5 at the protein level.
doi:10.1002/art.23613
PMCID: PMC2621107  PMID: 18668568
21.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003870
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
22.  Type I Interferons Are Associated with Subclinical Markers of Cardiovascular Disease in a Cohort of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37000.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have a striking increase in cardiovascular (CV) comorbidity not fully explained by the Framingham risk score. Recent evidence from in vitro studies suggests that type I interferons (IFN) could promote premature CV disease (CVD) in SLE. We assessed the association of type I IFN signatures with functional and anatomical evidence of vascular damage, and with biomarkers of CV risk in a cohort of lupus patients without overt CVD.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Serum type I IFN activity (induction of five IFN-inducible genes; IFIGs) from 95 SLE patient and 38 controls was quantified by real-time PCR. Flow mediated dilatation (FMD) of the brachial artery and carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) were quantified by ultrasound, and coronary calcification by computed tomography. Serum vascular biomarkers were measured by ELISA. We evaluated the effect of type I IFNs on FMD, CIMT and coronary calcification by first applying principal components analysis to combine data from five IFIGs into summary components that could be simultaneously modeled. Three components were derived explaining 97.1% of the total IFIG variation. Multivariable linear regression was utilized to investigate the association between the three components and other covariates, with the outcomes of FMD and CIMT; zero-inflated Poisson regression was used for modeling of coronary calcification. After controlling for traditional CV risk factors, enhanced serum IFN activity was significantly associated with decreased endothelial function in SLE patients and controls (p<0.05 for component 3), increased CIMT among SLE patients (p<0.01 for components 1 and 2), and severity of coronary calcification among SLE patients (p<0.001 for component 3).
Conclusions
Type I IFNs are independently associated with atherosclerosis development in lupus patients without history of overt CVD and after controlling for Framingham risk factors. This study further supports the hypothesis that type I IFNs promote premature vascular damage in SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037000
PMCID: PMC3351452  PMID: 22606325
23.  Detection of Catalase as a major protein target of the lipid peroxidation product 4-HNE and the lack of its genetic association as a risk factor in SLE 
BMC Medical Genetics  2008;9:62.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multifactorial disorder characterized by the presence of autoantibodies. We and others have implicated free radical mediated peroxidative damage in the pathogenesis of SLE. Since harmful free radical products are formed during this oxidative process, including 4-hydroxy 2-nonenol (4-HNE) and malondialdehyde (MDA), we hypothesized that specific HNE-protein adducts would be present in SLE red blood cell (RBC) membranes. Catalase is located on chromosome 11p13 where linkage analysis has revealed a marker in the same region of the genome among families with thrombocytopenia, a clinical manifestation associated with severe lupus in SLE affected pedigrees. Moreover, SLE afflicts African-Americans three times more frequently than their European-American counterparts. Hence we investigated the effects of a genetic polymorphism of catalase on risk and severity of SLE in 48 pedigrees with African American ancestry.
Methods
Tryptic digestion followed by matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) analysis was used to identify the protein modified by HNE, following Coomassie staining to visualize the bands on the acrylamide gels. Genotyping analysis for the C → T, -262 bp polymorphism in the promoter region of catalase was performed by PCR-RFLP and direct PCR-sequencing. We used a "pedigree disequilibrium test" for the family based association analysis, implemented in the PDT program to analyze the genotyping results.
Results
We found two proteins to be HNE-modified, migrating around 80 and 50 kD respectively. Tryptic digestion followed by matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) analysis of the Coomassie stained 80 kD band revealed that the target of HNE modification was catalase, a protein shown to associate with RBC membrane proteins. All the test statistics carried out on the genotyping analysis for the C → T, -262 bp polymorphism in the promoter region of catalase were non-significant (p > 0.05) in our data, which suggested that this SNP is not associated with SLE.
Conclusion
Our results indicate that catalase is one of the proteins modified due to oxidative stress. However, catalase may not be a susceptibility gene for SLE. Nonetheless, catalase is oxidatively modified among SLE patients. This suggests a possible role between oxidative modification of catalase and its affects on enzymatic activity in SLE. An oxidatively modified catalase could be one of the reasons for lower enzymatic activity among SLE subjects, which in turn could favor the accumulation of deleterious hydrogen peroxide. Furthermore, HNE-products are potential neoantigens and could be involved in the pathogenesis of SLE. Decrease in catalase activity could affect the oxidant-antioxidant balance. Chronic disturbance of this balance in patients with SLE may work favorably for the premature onset of atherogenesis with severe vascular effect.
doi:10.1186/1471-2350-9-62
PMCID: PMC2474584  PMID: 18606005
24.  European population substructure is associated with mucocutaneous manifestations and autoantibody production in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(8):2448-2456.
Objective
To determine whether genetic substructure in European-derived populations is associated with specific manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), including mucocutaneous phenotypes, autoantibody production, and renal disease.
Methods
SLE patients of European descent (n=1754) from 8 case collections were genotyped for over 1,400 ancestry informative markers that define a north/south gradient of European substructure. Based on these genetic markers, we used the STRUCTURE program to characterize each SLE patient in terms of percent northern (vs. southern) European ancestry. Non-parametric methods, including tests of trend, were used to identify associations between northern European ancestry and specific SLE manifestations.
Results
In multivariate analyses, increasing levels of northern European ancestry were significantly associated with photosensitivity (ptrend=0.0021, OR for highest quartile of northern European ancestry compared to lowest quartile 1.64, 95% CI 1.13–2.35) and discoid rash (ptrend=0.014, ORhigh-low 1.93, 95% CI 0.98–3.83). In contrast, northern European ancestry was protective for anticardiolipin (ptrend=1.6 × 10−4, ORhigh-low 0.46, 95% CI 0.30–0.69) and anti-dsDNA (ptrend=0.017, ORhigh-low 0.67, 95% CI 0.46–0.96) autoantibody production.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates that specific SLE manifestations vary according to northern vs. southern European ancestry. Thus, genetic ancestry may contribute to the clinical heterogeneity and variation in disease outcomes among SLE patients of European descent. Moreover, these results suggest that genetic studies of SLE subphenotypes will need to carefully address issues of population substructure due to genetic ancestry.
doi:10.1002/art.24707
PMCID: PMC2739103  PMID: 19644962
25.  Plasma levels of osteopontin identify patients at risk for organ damage in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Introduction
Osteopontin (OPN) has been implicated as a mediator of Th17 regulation via type I interferon (IFN) receptor signaling and in macrophage activity at sites of tissue repair. This study assessed whether increased circulating plasma OPN (cOPN) precedes development of organ damage in pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus (pSLE) and compared it to circulating plasma neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (cNGAL), a predictor of increased SLE disease activity.
Methods
cOPN and cNGAL were measured in prospectively followed pSLE (n = 42) and adult SLE (aSLE; n = 23) patients and age-matched controls. Time-adjusted cumulative disease activity and disease damage were respectively assessed using adjusted-mean SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) (AMS) and SLICC/ACR damage index (SDI).
Results
Compared to controls, elevated cOPN and cNGAL were observed in pSLE and aSLE. cNGAL preceded worsening SLEDAI by 3-6 months (P = 0.04), but was not associated with increased 6-month AMS. High baseline cOPN, which was associated with high IFNalpha activity and expression of autoantibodies to nucleic acids, positively correlated with 6-month AMS (r = 0.51 and 0.52, P = 0.001 and 0.01 in pSLE and aSLE, respectively) and was associated with SDI increase at 12 months in pSLE (P = 0.001). Risk factors for change in SDI in pSLE were cOPN (OR 7.5, 95% CI [2.9-20], P = 0.03), but not cNGAL, cumulative prednisone, disease duration, immunosuppression use, gender or ancestry using univariate and multivariate logistic regression. The area under the curve (AUC) when generating the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) of baseline cOPN sensitivity and specificity for the indication of SLE patients with an increase of SDI over a 12 month period is 0.543 (95% CI 0.347-0.738; positive predictive value 95% and negative predictive value 38%).
Conclusion
High circulating OPN levels preceded increased cumulative disease activity and organ damage in SLE patients, especially in pSLE, and its value as a predictor of poor outcome should be further validated in large longitudinal cohorts.
doi:10.1186/ar4150
PMCID: PMC3672798  PMID: 23343383

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