IFNα is known to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the mechanisms remain unclear. We previously showed that within weeks, exposure to IFNα in vivo induces lupus in pre-autoimmune lupus-prone NZB × NZW F1 (NZB/W) but not in BALB/c mice. In the current study, we show that in vivo expression of IFNα induces sustained B cell proliferation in both BALB/c and NZB/W mice. In NZB/W but not BALB/c mice, B cell proliferation was accompanied by a rapid and unabated production of autoantibody-secreting cells (ASCs) in secondary lymphoid organs, suggesting that a B cell checkpoint is altered in the autoimmune background. The majority (>95%) of ASCs elicited in IFNα-treated NZB/W mice were short-lived and occurred without the induction of long-lived plasma cells. A short course of cyclophosphamide caused a sharp drop in IFNα-elicited short-lived plasma cells, but the levels recovered within days following termination of treatment. Thus, our work provides new insights into effectiveness and limitations of current SLE therapies.
lupus; interferon alpha; B lymphocytes; short-lived plasma cells; cyclophosphamide
MRL/MpJ-Faslpr/lpr/J (MRLlpr) mice develop lupus-like disease manifestations in an IL-21–dependent manner. IL-21 is a pleio-tropic cytokine that can influence the activation, differentiation, and expansion of B and T cell effector subsets. Notably, auto-reactive CD4+ T and B cells spontaneously accumulate in MRLlpr mice and mediate disease pathogenesis. We sought to identify the particular lymphocyte effector subsets regulated by IL-21 in the context of systemic autoimmunity and, thus, generated MRLlpr mice deficient in IL-21R (MRLlpr.IL-21R−/−). Lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly, which are characteristic traits of the MRLlpr model were significantly reduced in the absence of IL-21R, suggesting that immune activation was likewise decreased. Indeed, spontaneous germinal center formation and plasma cell accumulation were absent in IL-21R–deficient MRLlpr mice. Correspondingly, we observed a significant reduction in autoantibody titers. Activated CD4+ CD44+ CD62Llo T cells also failed to accumulate, and CD4+ Th cell differentiation was impaired, as evidenced by a significant reduction in CD4+ T cells that produced the pronephritogenic cytokine IFN-γ. T extrafollicular helper cells are a recently described subset of activated CD4+ T cells that function as the primary inducers of autoantibody production in MRLlpr mice. Importantly, we demonstrated that T extrafollicular helper cells are dependent on IL-21R for their generation. Together, our data highlighted the novel observation that IL-21 is a critical regulator of multiple pathogenic B and T cell effector subsets in MRLlpr mice.
F1 hybrid New Zealand Black (NZB) x New Zealand White (NZM) (NZB/NZW) mice spontaneously develop an autoimmune disease analogous to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Testosterone experts a powerful suppressive effect on this disorder in adult NZB/NZW mice. A series of experiments was designed to determine if disease would also be suppressed by exposing fetal NZB/NZW mice to increased testosterone. A model was developed in which NZB dams carrying NZB/NZW fetuses were treated with testosterone in a dose adequate to masculinize the external genitalia in female fetuses. NZB/NZW mice that were derived from testosterone-treated dams and control NZB/NZW offspring were followed in a longevity study and had serial assays to assess development of SLE. Additional experiments were carried out to measure lymphocyte subsets and responses to mitogens. Results were compared with F1 hybrid offspring of C57BL/6 dams crossed with DBA/2 males, which are not autoimmune and do not develop SLE. Spleen cells from these groups were tested for Thy 1.2, CD4, CD8, and IgM receptors, and for responses to the mitogens Concanavalin A (ConA) and lipopolysaccharide. Control male NZB/NZW fetuses had unexpectedly high serum estradiol, which decreased significantly with maternal testosterone treatment. The testosterone-exposed male NZB/NZW fetuses developed into adults that lived longer than male NZB/NZW controls. Testosterone treatment of the dam was associated with elevated terminal anti-DNA levels but did not alter markers of renal diseases in adult NZB/NZW mice of either sex. Testosterone-exposed NZB/NZW females had altered T-lymphocyte subsets and testosterone-exposed males had increased response to ConA compared to controls. In male NZB/NZW fetuses whose mothers were administered testosterone, the naturally high level of circulating estradiol observed in untreated male fetuses was decreased significantly. This decrease was associated with an increase in longevity. This unique observation has important implications for fetal exposure to endocrine disruptors in the environment.
Malaria infection is accompanied by the production of a number of autoantibodies, including some that react with DNA. Epidemiological evidence implicates these in the nephritides that arise in human quartan malaria and in experimental malaria infections in mice. Through parallels with the involvement of DNA-reactive antibodies in the autoimmune syndrome systemic lupus erythematosus, a role for DNA-reactive antibodies in forming phlogistic immune deposits in the kidneys is implied. To more fully understand the relationship between antibodies of this specificity made in malaria and systemic lupus erythematosus, we prepared monoclonal DNA-reactive antibodies from BALB/c mice infected with Plasmodium berghei (clone RC) and compared their properties with those of other antibodies previously isolated from lupous MRL/Mp lpr/lpr and (NZB x NZW)F1 mice. Antibodies from malarial mice were all immunoglobulin M class and bound to single-stranded but not double-stranded DNA in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. They also reacted with synthetic polyribonucleotides in the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and with parasitized erythrocytes and parasite pigment in kidney sections. None of the antibodies from lupous mice had identical specificities. The potential involvement of the DNA-reactive antibodies in malarial nephritis was demonstrated, by use of immunocytochemical methods, on the basis of their binding to existing immune deposits in kidney sections from malarial mice, a similar property having been previously demonstrated for antibodies from lupous mice. Furthermore, antibodies from malarial mice expressed public idiotypes, notably Id.V-88, which is a member of the Id.16/6 family, commonly found on DNA-reactive antibodies in lupus and other infectious and connective tissue diseases. This study indicates that DNA-reactive antibodies in malaria have immunochemical properties similar but not identical to those of such antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus and that they have the potential to participate in the formation of immune deposits in nephritic malarial kidneys.
Immunization with portions of a murine antibody to DNA induced Ig peptide-reactive peripheral CD8+ inhibitory T (Ti) cells in non-autoimmune (BALB/c × NZW) F1 (CWF1) mice. Those Ti suppressed in vitro production of IgG anti-DNA by lymphocytes from MHC-matched, lupus-prone (NZB × NZW) F1 (BWF1) mice, primarily via secretion of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). However, splenic CD8+ cells from immunized BWF1 mice failed to suppress anti-DNA. Therefore, BWF1 mice were studied for defects in peripheral CD8+ T cells. The potential to suppress autoimmunity mediated by activated CD4+ helper T and B cells in BWF1 mice was assessed. As BWF1 mice aged, peripheral CD8+ T cells expanded little; fewer than 10% displayed surface markers of activation and memory. In contrast, quantities of splenic CD4+ T and B cells increased; high proportions displayed activation/memory markers. In old compared to young BWF1 mice, splenic cell secretion of two cytokines required for generation of CD8+ T effectors, IL-2 and TGF-β, was decreased. Immunizing BWF1 mice activated peptide-reactive CD8+ T cells, but their number was decreased compared to young BWF1 or old normal mice. While peptide-reactive splenic CD8+ T cells from immunized BWF1 mice did not survive in short-term cultures, similar CD8+ T cell lines from immunized CWF1 mice expanded and on transfer into BWF1 mice delayed autoimmunity and prolonged survival. Therefore, CD8+ T cells in old BWF1 mice are impaired in expansion, acquisition of memory, secretion of cytokine, and suppression of autoimmunity. Understanding these defects might identify targets for therapy in systemic lupus erythematosus.
Inhibitory CD8+ T cells; Lupus
Systemic lupus erythematosus and its murine equivalent, modelled in the New Zealand Black and New Zealand White (NZB × NZW)F1 hybrid strain, are polygenic inflammatory diseases, probably reflecting an autoimmune response to debris from cells undergoing programmed cell death. Several human and murine loci contributing to disease have been defined. The present study asks whether the proinflammatory purinergic receptor P2X7, an initiator of a form of programmed cell death known as aponecrosis, is a candidate product of murine and human lupus susceptibility loci. One such locus in (NZB × NZW)F1 mice is lbw3, which is situated at the distal end of NZW chromosome 5. We first assess whether NZB mice and NZW mice carry distinct alleles of the P2RX7 gene as expressed by common laboratory strains, which differ in sensitivity to ATP stimulation. We then compare the responses of NZB lymphocytes, NZW lymphocytes and (NZB × NZW)F1 lymphocytes to P2X7 stimulation. NZB and NZW parental strains express the distinct P2X7-L and P2X7-P alleles of P2RX7, respectively, while lymphocytes from these and (NZB × NZW)F1 mice differ markedly in their responses to P2X7 receptor stimulation. NZB mice and NZW mice express functionally distinct alleles of the proinflammatory receptor, P2X7. We show that current mapping suggests that murine and human P2RX7 receptor genes lie within lupus susceptibility loci lbw3 and SLEB4, and we argue that these encode a product with the functional characteristics consistent with a role in lupus. Furthermore, we argue that aponecrosis as induced by P2X7 is a cell death mechanism with characteristics that potentially have particular relevance to disease pathogenesis.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is considered a prototype of systemic autoimmune diseases; however, despite considerable advances in recent years in the understanding of basic mechanisms in immunology, little progress has been made in elucidating the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease. This even holds for inbred mice, such as the lupus-prone New Zealand Black/New Zealand White (NZB/NZW) F1 mice, which are all genetically programmed to develop lupus at a predetermined age. This frustrating state of affairs calls for a fundamental change in our scientific thinking, and the opening of new directions in lupus research. Here, we suggest that intrinsic B cell tolerance mechanisms are not grossly impaired in lupus-prone mice, but that an unusually strong positive selection event recruits a small number of autoreactive B cells to the germinal centers. This event could be facilitated by nucleic acid–protein complexes that are created by somatic changes in the susceptible animal.
B cell tolerance; Lupus; Anti-DNA; NZB/NZW mice; Retroelements
Spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) is involved in membrane-mediated signaling in various cells, including immune cells. It is overexpressed in T cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and its inhibition has been shown to improve T cell function as well as to improve disease manifestations in (NZB × NZW)F1 lupus-prone mice and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. While clinical trials examining Syk inhibition in patients with SLE are being considered, the aim of our experiments was to determine whether the therapeutic effects of Syk inhibition extend to other strains of lupus-prone mice and whether they result in improvement in skin disease and modification of established disease.
Female MRL/lpr or BAK/BAX mice were studied. Starting either at age 4 weeks (before disease) or at age 16 weeks (after established disease) and continuing for up to 16 weeks, mice were fed chow containing the Syk inhibitor R788 or control chow.
We found that inhibition of Syk in MRL/lpr and BAK/BAX mice prevented the development of skin disease and significantly reduced established skin disease. Similarly, Syk inhibition reduced the size of the spleen and lymph nodes, suppressed the development of renal disease, and suppressed established renal disease. Discontinuation of treatment resulted in extended suppression of skin disease for at least 8 weeks and suppression of renal disease for 4 weeks.
Syk inhibition suppresses the development of lupus skin and kidney disease in lupus-prone mice, suppresses established disease in lupus-prone mice, and may represent a valuable treatment for patients with SLE.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease with a high morbidity and nephritis is a common manifestation. Previous studies in murine lupus models have suggest a role for Toll-like receptor 2 and 4. We examined the role of these molecules in MRL lpr mice which is one of the most established and robust murine models. We compared disease parameters in Toll-like receptor 2 or Toll-like receptor 4 deficient mice with their littermate controls. We found no difference in the severity of glomerulonephritis as assessed by histology, serum creatinine and albuminuria when Toll-like receptor 2 or Toll-like receptor 4 deficient MRLlpr mice were compared with Toll-like receptor sufficient controls. We also found similar levels of anti-dsDNA and anti-ssDNA antibodies. These results show that Toll-like receptor 2 and Toll-like receptor 4 do not play a significant role in MRLlpr mice, and therefore they may not be important in human lupus.
Autoimmunity leads to the activation of innate effector pathways, pro-inflammatory cytokine production, and end-organ injury. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an upstream activator of the innate response that mediates the recruitment and retention of monocytes via CD74 and associated chemokine receptors, and it has a role in the maintenance of B lymphocytes. High-expression MIF alleles also are associated with end-organ damage in different autoimmune diseases. We assessed the therapeutic efficacy of ISO-1, an orally bioavailable, MIF antagonist, in two distinct models of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): the NZB/NZW F1 and the MRL/lpr mouse strains. ISO-1, like anti-MIF, inhibited the interaction between MIF and its receptor, CD74, and in each model of disease, it reduced functional and histological indices of glomerulonephritis, CD74+ and CXCR4+ leukocyte recruitment, and pro-inflammatory cytokine and chemokine expression. Neither autoantibody production nor T and B cell activation were significantly affected, pointing to the specificity of MIF antagonism in reducing excessive pro-inflammatory responses. These data highlight the feasibility of targeting the MIF–MIF receptor interaction by small molecule antagonism and support the therapeutic value of downregulating MIF-dependent pathways of tissue damage in SLE.
Autoimmunity; Cytokine; Innate Immunity
The current view holds that chronic autoimmune diseases are driven by the continuous activation of autoreactive B and T lymphocytes. However, despite the use of potent immunosuppressive drugs designed to interfere with this activation the production of autoantibodies often persists and contributes to progression of the immunopathology. In the present study, we analyzed the life span of (auto)antibody-secreting cells in the spleens of NZB × NZW F1 (NZB/W) mice, a murine model of systemic lupus erythematosus. The number of splenic ASCs increased in mice aged 1–5 mo and became stable thereafter. Less than 60% of the splenic (auto)antibody-secreting cells were short-lived plasmablasts, whereas 40% were nondividing, long-lived plasma cells with a half-life of >6 mo. In NZB/W mice and D42 Ig heavy chain knock-in mice, a fraction of DNA-specific plasma cells were also long-lived. Although antiproliferative immunosuppressive therapy depleted short-lived plasmablasts, long-lived plasma cells survived and continued to produce (auto)antibodies. Thus, long-lived, autoreactive plasma cells are a relevant target for researchers aiming to develop curative therapies for autoimmune diseases.
plasma cell; autoimmunity; SLE; antibodies; anti-DNA
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multiphenotypic autoimmune disease. The hallmark of SLE is the production of anti-double-stranded DNA autoantibodies and the deposition of immune complexes in target tissues such as the kidney, skin, and brain. Additional phenotypic traits are the presence of arthritis, anemia, central nervous system involvement, and a variety of autoantibodies. Females of childbearing age are particularly at risk. Recent genetic analysis of murine SLE shows that susceptibility is under complex polygenic control. It is also apparent that environmental factors contribute to the induction and exacerbation of SLE. We describe here the genotypic and phenotypic characterization of a group of recombinant inbred strains of SLE-prone mice that were derived from NZB and NZW progenitors, the parental strains of the classic female F1 hybrid lupus model. Recombination and reassortment of these ancestral genomes resulted in the NZM (New Zealand mixed) strains with strain-specific patterns of renal disease penetrance and other autoimmune traits such as Coombs positive anemia and neurologic deficits. Multiple susceptibility loci of the ancestral strains demonstrate that SLE is inherited as a threshold trait. Because some of these loci co-localize with the susceptibility loci of the insulin-dependent diabetes of nonobese diabetic strain, it is apparent that there are disease-specific as well as autoimmunity-promoting genes. It is proposed that the NZM strains, particularly those with reduced disease penetrance or partial genotypes, provide an improved genetic model for assessment of the effects of environmental agents on SLE and autoimmunity.
Unlike parental NZB or NZW mice, (NZB X NZW)F1 mice exhibit a lupus- like disease characterized by high serum levels of IgG antinuclear antibodies and a fatal immune-complex glomerulonephritis. At least three unlinked gene loci can be distinguished in NZW mice that conceivably contribute to a T cell-dependent autoimmune disease, including the MHC (H-2z) and the T cell receptor alpha and beta chain gene complexes. We undertook an (NZB X NZW)F1 X NZB backcross to determine the relative contribution of these NZW genes to lupus-like renal disease and autoantibody production in F1 mice. The incidence of severe renal disease and elevated levels of IgG antibodies to dsDNA and histone in the backcross mice was approximately half of that observed in (NZB X NZW)F1 mice. Furthermore, there was a strong correlation between the presence of the NZW H-2z haplotype and lupus-like disease in backcross mice. Approximately 90% of backcross mice with disease carried the NZW H-2z locus compared with 16% of mice without disease; nearly 90% of H-2d/z mice expressed severe autoimmune disease. In contrast, no association was apparent between the presence of the NZW T cell receptor alpha chain gene complex or beta chain gene complex and severe renal disease or autoantibody production. Thus, the NZW MHC or gene(s) linked to this locus appear to be the only dominant NZW genetic contribution to F1 disease.
In vivo, prolonged polyclonal activation of B cells by the nonantigenic but potent mitogenic lipid A portion of lipopolysaccharide (LPS-R595) resulted in acceleration of the late life systemic lupus erythematosus disease of female MRL/n, BXSB, and NZW mice, mimicking the time, form, and histopathological features characteristic of their early life disease counterparts, i.e., MRL/l females, BXSB males, and (NZB X NZW)F1 females. Similar polyclonal B cell activation of "immunologically normal" mice has less effect and led to a limited expression of autoimmune disease. This R595-induced autoimmunity and immune complex-mediated disease seemed to be the direct result of activation of the immune system and not from other effects of endotoxin since C3H/HeJ, a strain lacking lymphocyte receptors for LPS-R595, had neither serological nor histological evidence of autoimmune disease despite identical treatment.
In murine models of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), administration of either prolactin or estradiol (E2) increases autoimmunity, and there is evidence that elevated prolactin in response to E2 administration may contribute substantially to E2 effects. Hormonal influence on SLE can extend to environmental agents, as demonstrated by the ability of estrogenic organochlorine pesticides such as chlordecone to accelerate the development of lupus in female (NZB x NZW)F1 mice. In order to evaluate a potential role for prolactin in chlordecone effects on SLE, it was necessary to first determine whether treatment with chlordecone, like E2, results in elevated prolactin levels. Ovariectomized (NZB x NZW)F1 mice were treated for 5–6 weeks with chlordecone or E2 in doses shown previously to significantly shorten the time to onset of SLE. At the end of the treatment period, serum prolactin levels were increased 10- to 20-fold in E2-treated mice compared to untreated controls, but decreased in an apparent dose-dependent manner in mice treated with chlordecone. Prolactin receptor in purified B and CD4 T cells from treated animals, assessed through measurement of mRNA using quantitative real-time PCR, was increased by E2 treatment but unchanged in response to chlordecone. These observations suggest that the role of prolactin in eliciting autoimmunity in E2-treated animals is absent in the case of chlordecone, and by implication, that chlordecone possesses other actions that can replace the contribution of prolactin to development of SLE.
prolactin; estradiol; systemic lupus erythematosus; chlordecone; organochlorine pesticides
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that affects women more frequently than men. In the (NZB × NZW)F1 mouse, a murine SLE model, the presence or absence of estrogen markedly influences the rate of progression of disease. Three organochlorine pesticides with estrogenic effects were administered chronically to ovariectomized female (NZB × NZW)F1 mice, and we measured the time to development of renal disease, the principal clinical manifestation of lupus in this model. Treatment with chlordecone, methoxychlor, or o,p′-dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (o,p′-DDT) significantly decreased the time to onset of renal impairment, as did treatment with 17β-estradiol used as a positive control. In an expanded study of chlordecone, we found a dose-related early appearance of elevated anti–double-strand DNA autoantibody titers that corresponded with subsequent development of glomerulonephritis. Immunohistofluorescence confirmed early deposition of immune complexes in kidneys of mice treated with chlordecone. These observations are consistent with an effect of these organochlorine pesticides to accelerate the natural course of SLE in the (NZB × NZW)F1 mouse. Although we originally hypothesized that the effect on progression of autoimmunity was due to estrogenic properties of the pesticides, autoimmune effects and estrogenicity, assessed through measurement of uterine hypertrophy, were not well correlated. This may indicate that uterine hypertrophy is a poor indicator of comparative estrogenic effects of organochlorine pesticides on the immune system, or that the pesticides are influencing autoimmunity through a mode of action unrelated to their estrogenicity.
autoimmunity; chlordecone; DDT; estrogenicity; glomerulonephritis; kepone; methoxychlor; organochlorine pesticides; systemic lupus erythematosus
The acute-phase plasma protein response to disease activity in murine models of autoimmune lupus-like disease was investigated by measurement of the concentration of serum amyloid P component (SAP) in NZB X W and MRL/l mice. The levels of SAP, which is a major acute-phase protein in mice, did not rise at all in response to progression of disease in NZB X W mice between the ages of 1 and 9 mo. This resembles the behavior of acute-phase proteins such as C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A protein in human systemic lupus erythematosus, and just as in human lupus, where the occurrence of intercurrent microbial infection can stimulate an acute-phase response, so injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide or casein into the NZB X W mice stimulated "normal" acute-phase SAP production. In marked contrast, MRL/l mice developed greatly increased levels of SAP, which correlated closely with progression of their pathology as they aged. The disease profile of the MRL/l strain includes rheumatoid factors and spontaneous polyarthritis and their SAP response resembles the behavior of acute phase proteins in human rheumatoid arthritis. Different patterns of acute-phase response in different autoimmune disorders may thus be a reflection of the genetic predisposition to particular diseases and/or contribute to their pathogenesis. The existence of animal counterparts for the various clinical patterns of human acute-phase protein production will assist in experimental investigation of the underlying mechanisms and of the biological role of the acute-phase response.
Long-term administration of CTLA4Ig prevents the onset of disease in systemic lupus erythematosus–prone (SLE-prone) NZB/NZW F1 mice. To determine the mechanism of this effect, we engineered an adenovirus that expresses murine CTLA4Ig. Administration of a single high dose of this virus results in long-term expression of CTLA4Ig in the serum and absence of an immune response to the adenoviral vector. We administered Ad-CTLA4Ig to 19- to 22-week-old NZB/NZW F1 mice and evaluated the effect on anti-DNA antibody–producing B cells. We show that CTLA4Ig has a beneficial effect on murine SLE for as long as it is present in the serum. This effect is associated with decreased expansion of both the IgM and IgG autoreactive B-cell population, inhibition of immunoglobulin class switching, decreased frequency and altered pattern of somatic mutation, and a marked decrease in the numbers of activated CD4-positive T cells. In contrast, intrinsic B-cell hyperreactivity and the survival of plasma cells in the bone marrow, both of which are less dependent on T-cell help, appear to be unaffected by CTLA4Ig. High-dose CTLA4Ig did not induce permanent tolerance in this autoimmune disease model. Furthermore, although the mice survived in a conventional housing facility, treatment with Ad-CTLA4Ig was immunosuppressive.
A hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus and the MRL murine model for lupus is the presence of anti–double-stranded (ds)DNA antibodies (Abs). To identify the steps leading to the production of these Abs in autoimmune mice, we have compared the phenotype and localization of anti-dsDNA B cells in autoimmune (MRL+/+ and lpr/lpr) mice with that in nonautoimmune (BALB/c) mice. Anti-dsDNA B cells are actively regulated in BALB/c mice as indicated by their developmental arrest and accumulation at the T–B interface of the splenic follicle. In the MRL genetic background, anti-dsDNA B cells are no longer developmentally arrested, suggesting an intrinsic B cell defect conferred by MRL background genes. With intact Fas, they continue to exhibit follicular exclusion; however, in the presence of the lpr/lpr mutation, anti-dsDNA B cells are now present in the follicle. Coincident with the altered localization of anti-dsDNA B cells is a follicular infiltration of CD4 T cells. Together, these data suggest that MRL mice are defective in maintaining the developmental arrest of autoreactive B cells and indicate a role for Fas in restricting entry into the follicle.
tolerance; Fas; autoimmunity; antinuclear antibody; splenic architecture
Autoantigen presentation to T cells is crucial for the development of autoimmune disease. However, the mechanisms of autoantigen presentation are poorly understood. In this study, we show that splenic phagocytes play an important role in autoantigen presentation in murine lupus. Nucleosomes are major autoantigens in systemic lupus erythematosus. We found that nucleosome-specific T cells were stimulated dominantly in the spleen, compared with lymph nodes, lung, and thymus. Among splenic APCs, F4/80+macrophages and CD11b+CD11c+ dendritic cells were strong stimulators for nucleosome-specific T cells. When splenic phagocytes were depleted in (NZB × NZW) F1 (NZB/W F1) mice, nucleosome presentation in the spleen was dramatically suppressed. Moreover, depletion of splenic phagocytes significantly suppressed anti-nucleosome Ab and anti-dsDNA Ab production. Proteinuria progression was delayed and survival was prolonged in phagocyte-depleted mice. The numbers of autoantibody-secreting cells were decreased in the spleen from phagocyte-depleted mice. Multiple injections of splenic F4/80+ macrophages, not those of splenic CD11c+ dendritic cells, induced autoantibody production and proteinuria progression in NZB/W F1 mice. These results indicate that autoantigen presentation by splenic phagocytes including macrophages significantly contributes to autoantibody production and disease progression in lupus-prone mice.
Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease caused, in part, by abnormalities in cells of the immune system including B and T cells. Genetically reducing globally the expression of the ETS transcription factor FLI1 by 50% in two lupus mouse models significantly improves disease measures and survival through an unknown mechanism. In this study we analyze the effects of reducing FLI1 in the MRL/lpr lupus prone model on T cell function. We demonstrate that adoptive transfer of MRL/lpr Fli1+/+ or Fli1+/- T cells and B cells into Rag1-deficient mice results in significantly decreased serum immunoglobulin levels in animals receiving Fli1+/- lupus T cells compared to animals receiving Fli1+/+ lupus T cells regardless of the genotype of co-transferred lupus B cells. Ex vivo analyses of MRL/lpr T cells demonstrated that Fli1+/- T cells produce significantly less IL-4 during early and late disease and exhibited significantly decreased TCR-specific activation during early disease compared to Fli1+/+ T cells. Moreover, the Fli1+/- T cells expressed significantly less neuraminidase 1 (Neu1) message and decreased NEU activity during early disease and significantly decreased levels of glycosphingolipids during late disease compared to Fli1+/+ T cells. FLI1 dose-dependently activated the Neu1 promoter in mouse and human T cell lines. Together, our results suggest reducing FLI1 in lupus decreases the pathogenicity of T cells by decreasing TCR-specific activation and IL-4 production in part through the modulation of glycosphingolipid metabolism. Reducing the expression of FLI1 or targeting the glycosphingolipid metabolic pathway in lupus may serve as a therapeutic approach to treating lupus.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a polymorphic and multigenic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) modulates inflammation and the inhibition of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase type 4 (PDE4), which specifically hydrolyzes cAMP, inhibits TNFα secretion. This study was aimed at investigating the evolution of PDE activity and expression levels during the course of the disease in MRL/lpr lupus-prone mice, and to evaluate in these mice the biological and clinical effects of treatments with pentoxifylline, denbufylline and NCS 613 PDE inhibitors. This study reveals that compared to CBA/J control mice, kidney PDE4 activity of MRL/lpr mice increases with the disease progression. Furthermore, it showed that the most potent and selective PDE4 inhibitor NCS 613 is also the most effective molecule in decreasing proteinuria and increasing survival rate of MRL/lpr mice. NCS 613 is a potent inhibitor, which is more selective for the PDE4C subtype (IC50 = 1.4 nM) than the other subtypes (PDE4A, IC50 = 44 nM; PDE4B, IC50 = 48 nM; and PDE4D, IC50 = 14 nM). Interestingly, its affinity for the High Affinity Rolipram Binding Site is relatively low (Ki = 148 nM) in comparison to rolipram (Ki = 3 nM). Finally, as also observed using MRL/lpr peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs), NCS 613 inhibits basal and LPS-induced TNFα secretion from PBLs of lupus patients, suggesting a therapeutic potential of NCS 613 in systemic lupus. This study reveals that PDE4 represent a potential therapeutic target in lupus disease.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, such as captopril, are used to control hypertension. In patients and animals with primary nephropathies, these agents improve renal function more than that would be expected from their control of hypertension. Here, we examine the effects of treatment with captopril on lupus nephritis and discuss the potential mechanism(s) by which this agent exerts its renoprotective effects.
Lupus-prone, NZB/NZW F1 and MRL-lpr/lpr, mice were treated with captopril or with a control antihypertensive agent, verapamil. Mice were monitored for nephritis, and their sera and tissues analyzed for cytokine and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) expression.
Captopril treatment delayed the onset of proteinuria when administered to prenephritic mice, whereas verapamil did not. Captopril treatment also retarded disease progression when given to lupus mice that had early disease, and even reversed severe proteinuria in at least some older animals with advanced disease. It reduced chronic renal lesions, but had no effect on autoantibody production. The improvement in renal disease correlated with reduced TGF-β expression, particularly of the TGF-β1 and TGF-β2 isoforms, in the kidneys. Interestingly, in vivo or in vitro exposure to captopril reduced splenic levels of type 2 cytokines, interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10, suggesting a possible role of the immune system in captopril-mediated disease modulation.
Since type 2 cytokines are known to promote lupus glomerulosclerosis, decreased IL-4 and IL-10 production in captopril-treated mice may be related to this agent’s renoprotective effects. We argue here that ACE inhibitors not only act as selective TGF-β inhibitors, but also as selective immunomodulators, to improve lupus nephritis.
animal models; autoantibodies; cytokines; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; transforming growth factor β
Interleukin 23 receptor expressing IL-17 producing T cells have been shown to be important in the development of murine lupus. The usefulness of IL-23 inhibition in ameliorating lupus nephritis is unknown. We hypothesized that inhibition of IL-23 will ameliorate nephritis in lupus-prone mice. To this end, we treated MRL/lpr lupus-prone mice for 6 weeks with a rat anti-IL-23p19 antibody, which resulted in delaying the onset of nephritis without affecting the production of anti-dsDNA antibodies. The effect of the treatment was hampered by the production of murine anti-rat IgG antibodies. The amelioration of murine lupus by IL-23 inhibition strengthens the rationale for targeting IL-23 in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have an impairment in phenotype and function of endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) which is mediated by interferon α (IFN-α). We assessed whether murine lupus models also exhibit vasculogenesis abnormalities and their potential association with endothelial dysfunction. Phenotype and function of EPCs and type I IFN gene signatures in EPC compartments were assessed in female New Zealand Black/New Zealand White F1 (NZB/W), B6.MRL-Faslpr/J (B6/lpr) and control mice. Thoracic aorta endothelial and smooth muscle function were measured in response to acetylcholine or sodium nitropruside, respectively. NZB/W mice displayed reduced numbers, increased apoptosis and impaired function of EPCs. These abnormalities correlated with significant decreases in endolthelium-dependent vasomotor responses and with increased type I IFN signature in EPC compartments. In contrast, B6/lpr mice showed improvement in endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent responses, no abnormalities in EPC phenotype or function and downregulation of type I IFN signatures in EPC compartments. These results indicate that NZB/W mice represent a good model to study the mechanisms leading to endothelial dysfunction and abnormal vasculogenesis in lupus. These results further support the hypothesis that type I IFNs may play an important role in premature vascular damage and, potentially, atherosclerosis development in SLE.
endothelial progenitor cells; endothelium; interferon-alpha; systemic lupus erythematosus