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1.  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.
PMCID: PMC3787392  PMID: 24101921
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestral background; interferon gamma
2.  A Functional Variant in MicroRNA-146a Promoter Modulates Its Expression and Confers Disease Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002128.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic predisposition, characterized by an upregulated type I interferon pathway. MicroRNAs are important regulators of immune homeostasis, and aberrant microRNA expression has been demonstrated in patients with autoimmune diseases. We recently identified miR-146a as a negative regulator of the interferon pathway and linked the abnormal activation of this pathway to the underexpression of miR-146a in SLE patients. To explore why the expression of miR-146a is reduced in SLE patients, we conducted short parallel sequencing of potentially regulatory regions of miR-146a and identified a novel genetic variant (rs57095329) in the promoter region exhibiting evidence for association with SLE that was replicated independently in 7,182 Asians (Pmeta = 2.74×10−8, odds ratio = 1.29 [1.18–1.40]). The risk-associated G allele was linked to reduced expression of miR-146a in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the controls. Combined functional assays showed that the risk-associated G allele reduced the protein-binding affinity and activity of the promoter compared with those of the promoter containing the protective A allele. Transcription factor Ets-1, encoded by the lupus-susceptibility gene ETS1, identified in recent genome-wide association studies, binds near this variant. The manipulation of Ets-1 levels strongly affected miR-146a promoter activity in vitro; and the knockdown of Ets-1, mimicking its reduced expression in SLE, directly impaired the induction of miR-146a. We also observed additive effects of the risk alleles of miR-146a and ETS1. Our data identified and confirmed an association between a functional promoter variant of miR-146a and SLE. This risk allele had decreased binding to transcription factor Ets-1, contributing to reduced levels of miR-146a in SLE patients.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have identified quite a number of susceptibility loci associated with complex diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, for most of them, the intrinsic link between genetic variation and disease mechanism is not fully understood. SLE is characterized by a significantly upregulated type I interferon (IFN) pathway, and we have previously reported that underexpression of a microRNA, miR-146a, contributes to alterations in the type I IFN pathway in lupus patients. Here we identified a novel genetic variant in the promoter region of miR-146a that is directly related to reduced expression of miR-146a and is associated with SLE susceptibility. The risk allele of this variant confers weaker binding affinity for Ets-1, which is a transcription factor encoded by a lupus susceptibility gene found in recent GWAS. These findings suggest that reduced expression of Ets-1 and its reduced binding affinity to the miR-146a promoter both may contribute to low levels of this microRNA in SLE patients, which may contribute to the upregulated type I IFN pathway in these patients. To our knowledge, this is also the first piece of evidence showing association between a genetic variant in a promoter region of a miRNA gene and a human disease.
PMCID: PMC3128113  PMID: 21738483
3.  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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC3351452  PMID: 22606325
4.  Differential Genetic Associations for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Based on Anti–dsDNA Autoantibody Production 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001323.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, systemic autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody formation. Previously published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have investigated SLE as a single phenotype. Therefore, we conducted a GWAS to identify genetic factors associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production, a SLE–related autoantibody with diagnostic and clinical importance. Using two independent datasets, over 400,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were studied in a total of 1,717 SLE cases and 4,813 healthy controls. Anti–dsDNA autoantibody positive (anti–dsDNA +, n = 811) and anti–dsDNA autoantibody negative (anti–dsDNA –, n = 906) SLE cases were compared to healthy controls and to each other to identify SNPs associated specifically with these SLE subtypes. SNPs in the previously identified SLE susceptibility loci STAT4, IRF5, ITGAM, and the major histocompatibility complex were strongly associated with anti–dsDNA + SLE. Far fewer and weaker associations were observed for anti–dsDNA – SLE. For example, rs7574865 in STAT4 had an OR for anti–dsDNA + SLE of 1.77 (95% CI 1.57–1.99, p = 2.0E-20) compared to an OR for anti–dsDNA – SLE of 1.26 (95% CI 1.12–1.41, p = 2.4E-04), with pheterogeneity<0.0005. SNPs in the SLE susceptibility loci BANK1, KIAA1542, and UBE2L3 showed evidence of association with anti–dsDNA + SLE and were not associated with anti–dsDNA – SLE. In conclusion, we identified differential genetic associations with SLE based on anti–dsDNA autoantibody production. Many previously identified SLE susceptibility loci may confer disease risk through their role in autoantibody production and be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity loci. Lack of strong SNP associations may suggest that other types of genetic variation or non-genetic factors such as environmental exposures have a greater impact on susceptibility to anti–dsDNA – SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can involve virtually any organ system. SLE patients produce antibodies that bind to their own cells and proteins (autoantibodies) which can cause irreversible organ damage. One particular SLE–related autoantibody directed at double-stranded DNA (anti–dsDNA) is associated with kidney involvement and more severe disease. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in SLE have studied SLE itself, not particular SLE manifestations. Therefore, we conducted this GWAS of anti–dsDNA autoantibody production to identify genetic associations with this clinically important autoantibody. We found that many previously identified SLE–associated genes are more strongly associated with anti–dsDNA autoantibody production than SLE itself, and they may be more accurately described as autoantibody propensity genes. No strong genetic associations were observed for SLE patients who do not produce anti–dsDNA autoantibodies, suggesting that other factors may have more influence in developing this type of SLE. Further investigation of these autoantibody propensity genes may lead to greater insight into the causes of autoantibody production and organ damage in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3048371  PMID: 21408207
5.  Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e491.
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.
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC1702557  PMID: 17177599
6.  Interferon-Regulated Chemokines as Biomarkers of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity: A Validation Study 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(10):3098-3107.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by unpredictable flares of disease activity and irreversible damage to multiple organ systems. An earlier study showed that SLE patients carrying an interferon gene expression signature in blood have elevated serum levels of interferon (IFN)-regulated chemokines. These chemokines were associated with more severe and active disease and showed promise as SLE disease activity biomarkers. This study was designed to validate IFN regulated chemokines as biomarkers of SLE disease activity in 267 longitudinally-followed SLE patients.
To validate the potential utility of serum chemokine levels as biomarkers for disease activity, we measured serum chemokine levels – CXCL10 (IP-10), CCL2 (MCP-1), and CCL19 (MIP-3B) – in an independent cohort of 267 SLE patients followed longitudinally over one year (1166 total visits).
Serum chemokine levels correlated with current visit lupus activity (p=2×10−10), rising at flare (p=1×10−3) and decreasing as disease remitted (p=1×10−3), and performed better than currently available laboratory tests. Chemokine levels measured at a single baseline visit in patients with SLEDAI ≤4 were predictive of lupus flare over the ensuing year (p=6×10−4).
Monitoring serum chemokine levels in SLE may improve assessment of current disease activity, the prediction of future flare, and overall clinical decision-making.
PMCID: PMC2842939  PMID: 19790071
7.  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.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
8.  Interferon Regulatory Factors in Human Lupus Pathogenesis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a severe multi-system autoimmune disease which results from both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many lines of investigation support interferon alpha (IFN-α) as a causal agent in human lupus, and high levels of serum IFN-α are a heritable risk factor for SLE. Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a family of transcription factors involved in host defense, which can induce transcription of IFN-α and other immune response genes following activation. In SLE, circulating immune complexes which contain nucleic acid are prevalent. These complexes are recognized by endosomal Toll-like receptors, resulting in activation of downstream IRF proteins. Genetic variants in the IRF5 and IRF7 genes have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and these same variants are associated with increased serum IFN-α in SLE patients. The increase in serum IFN-α related to IRF5 and 7 genotypes is observed only in patients with particular antibody specificities. This suggests that chronic stimulation of the endosomal Toll-like receptors by autoantibody immune complexes is required for IRF SLE-risk variants to cause elevation of circulating IFN-α and subsequent risk of SLE. Recently, genetic variation in the IRF8 gene has been associated with SLE and multiple sclerosis, and studies support an impact of IRF8 genotype on the IFN-α pathway. In summary, the SLE-associated polymorphisms in the IRF family of proteins appear to be gain-of-function variants, and understanding the impact of these variants upon the IFN-α pathway in vivo may guide therapeutic strategies directed at the Toll-like receptor/IRF/IFN-α pathway in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
9.  SLE Peripheral Blood B Cell, T Cell and Myeloid Cell Transcriptomes Display Unique Profiles and Each Subset Contributes to the Interferon Signature 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67003.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by defective immune tolerance combined with immune cell hyperactivity resulting in the production of pathogenic autoantibodies. Previous gene expression studies employing whole blood or peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) have demonstrated that a majority of patients with active disease have increased expression of type I interferon (IFN) inducible transcripts known as the IFN signature. The goal of the current study was to assess the gene expression profiles of isolated leukocyte subsets obtained from SLE patients. Subsets including CD19+ B lymphocytes, CD3+CD4+ T lymphocytes and CD33+ myeloid cells were simultaneously sorted from PBMC. The SLE transcriptomes were assessed for differentially expressed genes as compared to healthy controls. SLE CD33+ myeloid cells exhibited the greatest number of differentially expressed genes at 208 transcripts, SLE B cells expressed 174 transcripts and SLE CD3+CD4+ T cells expressed 92 transcripts. Only 4.4% (21) of the 474 total transcripts, many associated with the IFN signature, were shared by all three subsets. Transcriptional profiles translated into increased protein expression for CD38, CD63, CD107a and CD169. Moreover, these studies demonstrated that both SLE lymphoid and myeloid subsets expressed elevated transcripts for cytosolic RNA and DNA sensors and downstream effectors mediating IFN and cytokine production. Prolonged upregulation of nucleic acid sensing pathways could modulate immune effector functions and initiate or contribute to the systemic inflammation observed in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3691135  PMID: 23826184
10.  Myeloid Dendritic Cells from B6.NZM Sle1/Sle2/Sle3 Lupus-prone Mice express an Interferon Signature that Precedes Disease Onset 
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) show an over-expression of Type I Interferon (IFN) responsive genes called “Interferon Signature”. We found that the B6.NZMSle1/Sle2/Sle3 (Sle1,2,3) lupus-prone mice also express an Interferon Signature compared to non autoimmune C57BL/6 mice. In vitro, myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs)(GM-CSF bone marrow-derived BMDCs) from Sle1,2,3 mice constitutively over-expressed IFN responsive genes such as IFNb, Oas-3, Mx-1, ISG-15 and CXCL10, and the members of IFN signaling pathway STAT1, STAT2, and IRF7. The Interferon Signature was similar in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs from young, pre-autoimmune mice and from mice with high titers of autoantibodies, suggesting that the Interferon Signature in mDCs precedes disease onset and it is independent from the autoantibodies. Sle1,2,3 BMDCs hyper-responded to stimulation with IFNa and the TLR7 and TLR9 agonists R848 and CpGs. We propose that this hyper-response is induced by the Interferon Signature and only partially contributes to the Signature, since oligonucleotides inhibitory for TLR7 and TLR9 only partially suppressed the constitutive Interferon Signature and pre-exposure to IFNa induced the same hyper-response in wild type BMDCs than in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs. In vivo, mDCs and with lesser extent T and B cells from young pre-diseased Sle1,2,3 mice also expressed the Interferon Signature, although they lacked the strength that BMDCs showed in vitro. Sle1,2,3 plasmacytoid DCs expressed the Interferon Signature in vitro but not in vivo, suggesting that mDCs may be more relevant before disease onset. We propose that Sle1,2,3 mice are useful tools to study the role of the Interferon Signature in lupus pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3381850  PMID: 22661089
Myeloid Dendritic cells; Type I Interferon; systemic lupus erythematosus; TLR; gene expression
11.  A candidate gene study of the type I interferon pathway implicates IKBKE and IL8 as risk loci for SLE 
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease in which the type I interferon pathway has a crucial role. We have previously shown that three genes in this pathway, IRF5, TYK2 and STAT4, are strongly associated with risk for SLE. Here, we investigated 78 genes involved in the type I interferon pathway to identify additional SLE susceptibility loci. First, we genotyped 896 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in these 78 genes and 14 other candidate genes in 482 Swedish SLE patients and 536 controls. Genes with P<0.01 in the initial screen were then followed up in 344 additional Swedish patients and 1299 controls. SNPs in the IKBKE, TANK, STAT1, IL8 and TRAF6 genes gave nominal signals of association with SLE in this extended Swedish cohort. To replicate these findings we extracted data from a genomewide association study on SLE performed in a US cohort. Combined analysis of the Swedish and US data, comprising a total of 2136 cases and 9694 controls, implicates IKBKE and IL8 as SLE susceptibility loci (Pmeta=0.00010 and Pmeta=0.00040, respectively). STAT1 was also associated with SLE in this cohort (Pmeta=3.3 × 10−5), but this association signal appears to be dependent of that previously reported for the neighbouring STAT4 gene. Our study suggests additional genes from the type I interferon system in SLE, and highlights genes in this pathway for further functional analysis.
PMCID: PMC3060320  PMID: 21179067
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon system; candidate gene study; single nucleotide polymorphism; IKBKE; IL8
12.  Adolescent onset of lupus results in more aggressive disease and worse outcomes: results of a nested matched case—control study within LUMINA, a multiethnic US cohort (LUMINA LVII) 
Lupus  2008;17(4):314.
The objective of this study is to examine the clinical features and outcomes of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) whose disease began in adolescence [juvenile-onset SLE (jSLE)] compared with adult-onset patients [adult-onset SLE (aSLE)] from a large multiethnic cohort. Systemic lupus erythematosus patients of African-American, Caucasian, or Hispanic ethnicity and ≥1 year follow-up were studied in two groups: jSLE (diagnosed at ≤18 years); aSLE (diagnosed at 19–50 years; matched for gender and disease duration at enrolment). Sociodemographic data, SLE manifestations, disease activity, damage accrual, SLE-related hospitalizations or emergency room visits, drug utilization, mortality and psychosocial characteristics and quality of life were compared. Data were analysed by univariable and multivariable analyses. Seventy-nine patients were studied (31 jSLE, 48 aSLE); 90% were women. Mean (SD) total disease duration was 6.8 (2.7) years in jSLE and 5.6 (3.3) years in aSLE (p = 0.077). Mean age at cohort entry was 18.4 (1.8) and 33.9 (9.2) years in jSLE and aSLE respectively. By univariable analysis, jSLE patients were more commonly of African-American descent, were more likely to have renal and neurological involvements, and to accrue renal damage; jSLE patients had lower levels of helplessness and scored higher in the physical component measure of the SF-36 than aSLE patients. Renal involvement [OR = 1.549, 95% CI (1.397–15.856)] and neurological involvement [OR = 1.642, 95% CI (1.689–15.786)] were independently associated with jSLE by multivariable analysis. There was a larger proportion of African-Americans within the jSLE group. After adjusting for ethnicity and follow-up time, jSLE patients experienced more renal and neurological manifestations, with more renal damage. There was a two-fold higher mortality rate in the jSLE group.
PMCID: PMC2818044  PMID: 18413413
juvenile-onset SLE; outcome
13.  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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2945049  PMID: 20659327
14.  Olf1/EBF associated zinc finger protein interfered with antinuclear antibody production in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
The aim of the study was to determine whether Olf1/EBF associated zinc finger protein (OAZ), a transcription factor encoded by a positional systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) candidate gene, plays a functional role in the pathogenesis in SLE.
Gene expression levels in peripheral blood cells (PBLs) measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) were assessed for association with disease activity and the presence of specific autoantibodies. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were incubated with specific siRNAs for three days, then cells were harvested for measuring mRNA levels using qPCR, and supernatants for levels of total immunoglobulin (Ig)G and IgM as well as secreted cytokines, chemokine and antinuclear antibodies (ANA) using ELISA. Indirect immunofluorescence was also applied for ANA detection.
OAZ gene expressions in PBLs from 40 ANA-positive SLE patients were significantly increased than those from 30 normal controls (P < 0.0001) and 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (P < 0.01). In SLE patients, OAZ transcripts were positively correlated with SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) score (r = 0.72, P < 0.0001) and higher in those positive for anti-dsDNA or anti-Sm antibodies (both P < 0.05). Co-culturing with OAZ siRNAs reduced mRNA levels of OAZ by 74.6 ± 6.4% as compared to those co-cultured with non-targeting siRNA and OAZ silencing resulted in reduced total IgG, ANA, interferon (IFN)-γ, interleukin (IL)-10, IL-12 and IL-21, but elevated CCL2 levels in culture supernatants (P < 0.05). The declined ANA levels correlated with inhibited OAZ expression (r = 0.88, P = 0.05), reduced IL-21 levels (r = 0.99, P < 0.01), and elevated chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 levels (r = -0.98, P < 0.01). Expressions of ID1-3 were significantly down-regulated by 68.7%, 70.2% and 67.7% respectively after OAZ silence, while ID3 was also highly expressed in SLE PBLs (P < 0.0001) and associated with disease activity (r = 0.76, P < 0.0001) as well as anti-dsDNA or anti-Sm antibodies (both P < 0.05).
Elevated expression of OAZ transcripts in SLE PBLs were strongly correlated with disease activity. Suppression of OAZ expression inhibited downstream ID levels, and secretion of ANA and IL-21, implicating a role of OAZ pathway in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2888210  PMID: 20359360
15.  Replication of the genetic effects of IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) on systemic lupus erythematosus in a Korean population 
Recently, two studies provided convincing evidence that IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene polymorphisms are significantly associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in several white populations. To replicate the association with SLE in an Asian population, we examined the genetic effects in our SLE cohort from a Korean population. A total of 1,565 subjects, composed of 593 cases and 972 controls, were genotyped using the TaqMan® (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA) method. The genetic effects of polymorphisms on the risk of SLE were evaluated using χ2 tests and a Mantel–Haenszel meta-analysis. Statistical analysis revealed results in the Korean population were similar to the previous reports from white populations. The rs2004640 T allele had a higher frequency in SLE cases (0.385) than controls (0.321; odds ratio (OR) = 1.32, P = 0.0003). In combined analysis, including all seven independent cohorts from the three studies so far, robust and consistent associations of the rs2004640 T allele with SLE were observed. The estimate of risk was OR = 1.44 (range, 1.34–1.55), with an overall P = 1.85 × 10-23 for the rs2004640 T allele. The haplotype (rs2004640T–rs2280714T) involved in both the alternative splice donor site and the elevated expression of IRF5 also had a highly significant association with SLE (pooled, P = 2.11 × 10-16). Our results indicate that the genetic effect on the risk of SLE mediated by IRF5 variants can be generally accepted in both white and Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC1906810  PMID: 17389033
16.  Identification of MAMDC1 as a Candidate Susceptibility Gene for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8037.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disorder with multiple susceptibility genes. We have previously reported suggestive linkage to the chromosomal region 14q21-q23 in Finnish SLE families.
Principal Findings
Genetic fine mapping of this region in the same family material, together with a large collection of parent affected trios from UK and two independent case-control cohorts from Finland and Sweden, indicated that a novel uncharacterized gene, MAMDC1 (MAM domain containing glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor 2, also known as MDGA2, MIM 611128), represents a putative susceptibility gene for SLE. In a combined analysis of the whole dataset, significant evidence of association was detected for the MAMDC1 intronic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) rs961616 (P –value = 0.001, Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.292, 95% CI 1.103–1.513) and rs2297926 (P –value = 0.003, OR = 1.349, 95% CI 1.109–1.640). By Northern blot, real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses, we show that MAMDC1 is expressed in several tissues and cell types, and that the corresponding mRNA is up-regulated by the pro-inflammatory cytokines tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ) in THP-1 monocytes. Based on its homology to known proteins with similar structure, MAMDC1 appears to be a novel member of the adhesion molecules of the immunoglobulin superfamily (IgCAM), which is involved in cell adhesion, migration, and recruitment to inflammatory sites. Remarkably, some IgCAMs have been shown to interact with ITGAM, the product of another SLE susceptibility gene recently discovered in two independent genome wide association (GWA) scans.
Further studies focused on MAMDC1 and other molecules involved in these pathways might thus provide new insight into the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC2785483  PMID: 19997561
17.  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
18.  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
19.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and altered type I interferon expression. Genetic surveys and genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 SLE susceptibility genes. One of these genes, TNIP1, encodes the ABIN1 protein. ABIN1 functions in the immune system by restricting the NF-κB signaling. In order to better understand the genetic factors that influence association with SLE in genes that regulate the NF-κB pathway, we analyzed a dense set of genetic markers spanning TNIP1 and TAX1BP1, as well as the TNIP1 homolog, TNIP2, in case-control sets of diverse ethnic origins.
We fine-mapped TNIP1, TNIP2, and TAX1BP1 in a total of 8372 SLE cases and 7492 healthy controls from European-ancestry, African-American, Hispanic, East Asian, and African-American Gullah populations. Levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein were analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively, in EBV-transformed human B cell lines.
We found significant associations between genetic variants within TNIP1 and SLE but not in TNIP2 or TAX1BP1. After resequencing and imputation, we identified two independent risk haplotypes within TNIP1 in individuals of European-ancestry that were also present in African-American and Hispanic populations. These risk haplotypes produced lower levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein suggesting they harbor hypomorphic functional variants that influence susceptibility to SLE by restricting ABIN1 expression.
Our results confirmed the association signals between SLE and TNIP1 variants in multiple populations and provide new insight into the mechanism by which TNIP1 variants may contribute to SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
20.  Specificity of the STAT4 Genetic Association for Severe Disease Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(5):e1000084.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. A polymorphism in the STAT4 gene has recently been established as a risk factor for SLE, but the relationship with specific SLE subphenotypes has not been studied. We studied 137 SNPs in the STAT4 region genotyped in 4 independent SLE case series (total n = 1398) and 2560 healthy controls, along with clinical data for the cases. Using conditional testing, we confirmed the most significant STAT4 haplotype for SLE risk. We then studied a SNP marking this haplotype for association with specific SLE subphenotypes, including autoantibody production, nephritis, arthritis, mucocutaneous manifestations, and age at diagnosis. To prevent possible type-I errors from population stratification, we reanalyzed the data using a subset of subjects determined to be most homogeneous based on principal components analysis of genome-wide data. We confirmed that four SNPs in very high LD (r2 = 0.94 to 0.99) were most strongly associated with SLE, and there was no compelling evidence for additional SLE risk loci in the STAT4 region. SNP rs7574865 marking this haplotype had a minor allele frequency (MAF) = 31.1% in SLE cases compared with 22.5% in controls (OR = 1.56, p = 10−16). This SNP was more strongly associated with SLE characterized by double-stranded DNA autoantibodies (MAF = 35.1%, OR = 1.86, p<10−19), nephritis (MAF = 34.3%, OR = 1.80, p<10−11), and age at diagnosis<30 years (MAF = 33.8%, OR = 1.77, p<10−13). An association with severe nephritis was even more striking (MAF = 39.2%, OR = 2.35, p<10−4 in the homogeneous subset of subjects). In contrast, STAT4 was less strongly associated with oral ulcers, a manifestation associated with milder disease. We conclude that this common polymorphism of STAT4 contributes to the phenotypic heterogeneity of SLE, predisposing specifically to more severe disease.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic disabling autoimmune disease, most commonly striking women in their thirties or forties. It can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including kidney disease, arthritis, and skin disorders. Prognosis varies greatly depending on these clinical features, with kidney disease and related characteristics leading to greater morbidity and mortality. It is also complex genetically; while lupus runs in families, genes increase one’s risk for lupus but do not fully determine the outcome. It is thought that the interactions of multiple genes and/or interactions between genes and environmental factors may cause lupus, but the causes and disease pathways of this very heterogeneous disease are not well understood. By examining relationships between subtypes of lupus and specific genes, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that the STAT4 gene, very recently identified as a lupus risk gene, predisposes specifically to severe manifestations of lupus, including kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC2377340  PMID: 18516230
21.  Plasma levels of osteopontin identify patients at risk for organ damage in systemic lupus erythematosus 
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.
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).
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%).
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.
PMCID: PMC3672798  PMID: 23343383
22.  A Comprehensive Analysis of Shared Loci between Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Sixteen Autoimmune Diseases Reveals Limited Genetic Overlap 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(12):e1002406.
In spite of the well-known clustering of multiple autoimmune disorders in families, analyses of specific shared genes and polymorphisms between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) have been limited. Therefore, we comprehensively tested autoimmune variants for association with SLE, aiming to identify pleiotropic genetic associations between these diseases. We compiled a list of 446 non–Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) variants identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of populations of European ancestry across 17 ADs. We then tested these variants in our combined Caucasian SLE cohorts of 1,500 cases and 5,706 controls. We tested a subset of these polymorphisms in an independent Caucasian replication cohort of 2,085 SLE cases and 2,854 controls, allowing the computation of a meta-analysis between all cohorts. We have uncovered novel shared SLE loci that passed multiple comparisons adjustment, including the VTCN1 (rs12046117, P = 2.02×10−06) region. We observed that the loci shared among the most ADs include IL23R, OLIG3/TNFAIP3, and IL2RA. Given the lack of a universal autoimmune risk locus outside of the MHC and variable specificities for different diseases, our data suggests partial pleiotropy among ADs. Hierarchical clustering of ADs suggested that the most genetically related ADs appear to be type 1 diabetes with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease with ulcerative colitis. These findings support a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. For many of the shared GWAS autoimmune loci, we found no evidence for association with SLE, including IL23R. Also, several established SLE loci are apparently not associated with other ADs, including the ITGAM-ITGAX and TNFSF4 regions. This study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune loci to date, supports a relatively distinct non–MHC genetic susceptibility for SLE, provides further evidence for previously and newly identified shared genes in SLE, and highlights the value of studies of potentially pleiotropic genes in autoimmune diseases.
Author Summary
It is well known that multiple autoimmune disorders cluster in families. However, all of the genetic variants that explain this clustering have not been discovered, and the specific genetic variants shared between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases (ADs) are not known. In order to better understand the genetic factors that explain this predisposition to autoimmunity, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of shared autoimmune genetic variants. First we considered results from 17 ADs and compiled a list with 446 significant genetic variants from these studies. We identified some genetic variants extensively shared between ADs, as well as the ADs that share the most variants. The genetic overlap between SLE and other ADs was modest. Next we tested how important all the 446 genetic variants were in our collection with a minimum of 1,500 SLE patients. Among the most significant variants in SLE, the majority had already been identified in previous studies, but we also discovered variants in two important immune genes. In summary, our data identified diseases with common genetic risk factors and novel SLE effects, and this supports a relatively distinct genetic susceptibility for SLE. This study helps delineate the genetic architecture of ADs.
PMCID: PMC3234215  PMID: 22174698
23.  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
24.  Polymorphisms in the Hsp70 gene locus are genetically associated with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2010;69(11):1983-1989.
Heat shock proteins (Hsps) play a role in the delivery and presentation of antigenic peptides and are thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of multifactorial diseases.
To investigate genes encoding cytosolic Hsp70 proteins for associations of allelic variants with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Case–control studies of two independent Caucasian SLE cohorts were performed. In a haplotype-tagging single-nucleotide polymorphism approach, common variants of HspA1L, HspA1A and HspA1B were genotyped and principal component analyses were performed for the cohort from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF). Relative quantification of mRNA was carried out for each Hsp70 gene in healthy controls. Conditional regression analysis was performed to determine if allelic variants in Hsp70 act independently of HLA-DR3.
On analysis of common genetic variants of HspA1L, HspA1A and HspA1B, a haplotype significantly associated with SLE in the Erlangen-SLE cohort was identified, which was confirmed in the OMRF cohort. Depending on the cohorts, OR ranging from 1.43 to 1.88 and 2.64 to 3.16 was observed for individuals heterozygous and homozygous for the associated haplotype, respectively. Patients carrying the risk haplotype or the risk allele more often displayed autoantibodies to Ro and La in both cohorts. In healthy controls bearing this haplotype, the amount of HspA1A mRNA was significantly increased, whereas total Hsp70 protein concentration was not altered.
Allelic variants of the Hsp70 genes are significantly associated with SLE in Caucasians, independently of HLA-DR3, and correlate with the presence of autoantibodies to Ro and La. Hence, the Hsp70 gene locus appears to be involved in SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3002760  PMID: 20498198
25.  Interferon Alpha as a Primary Pathogenic Factor in Human Lupus 
Interferon alpha (IFN-α) is a critical mediator of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This review will summarize evidence supporting the role for IFN-α in the initiation of human SLE. IFN-α functions in viral immunity at the interface of innate and adaptive immunity, a position well suited to setting thresholds for autoimmunity. Some individuals treated with IFN-α for chronic viral infections develop de novo SLE, which frequently resolves when IFN-α is withdrawn, supporting the idea that IFN-α was causal. Abnormally high IFN-α levels are clustered within SLE families, suggesting that high serum IFN-α is a heritable risk factor for SLE. Additionally, SLE-risk genetic variants in the IFN-α pathway are gain of function in nature, resulting in either higher circulating IFN-α levels or greater sensitivity to IFN-α signaling in SLE patients. A recent genome-wide association study has identified additional novel genetic loci associated with high serum IFN-α in SLE patients. These data support the idea that genetically determined endogenous elevations in IFN-α predispose to human SLE. It is possible that some of these gain-of-function polymorphisms in the IFN-α pathway are useful in viral defense, and that risk of SLE is a burden we have taken on in the fight to defend ourselves against viral infection.
PMCID: PMC3234490  PMID: 21923413

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