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1.  The Impact of Vitamin D on Dendritic Cell Function in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9193.
Excessive activity of dendritic cells (DCs) is postulated as a central disease mechanism in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Vitamin D is known to reduce responsiveness of healthy donor DCs to the stimulatory effects of Type I IFN. As vitamin D deficiency is reportedly common in SLE, we hypothesized that vitamin D might play a regulatory role in the IFNα amplification loop in SLE. Our goals were to investigate the relationship between vitamin D levels and disease activity in SLE patients and to investigate the effects of vitamin D on DC activation and expression of IFNα-regulated genes in vitro.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this study, 25-OH vitamin D (25-D) levels were measured in 198 consecutively recruited SLE patients. Respectively, 29.3% and 11.8% of African American and Hispanic SLE patient had 25-D levels <10 ng/ml. The degree of vitamin D deficiency correlated inversely with disease activity; R = −.234, p = .002. In 19 SLE patients stratified by 25-D levels, there were no differences between circulating DC number and phenotype. Monocyte-derived DCs (MDDCs) of SLE patients were normally responsive to the regulatory effects of vitamin D in vitro as evidenced by decreased activation in response to LPS stimulation in the presence of 1,25-D. Additionally, vitamin D conditioning reduced expression of IFNα-regulated genes by healthy donor and SLE MDDCs in response to factors in activating SLE plasma.
We report on severe 25-D deficiency in a substantial percentage of SLE patients tested and demonstrate an inverse correlation with disease activity. Our results suggest that vitamin D supplementation will contribute to restoring immune homeostasis in SLE patients through its inhibitory effects on DC maturation and activation. We are encouraged to support the importance of adequate vitamin D supplementation and the need for a clinical trial to assess whether vitamin D supplementation affects IFNα activity in vivo and, most importantly, improves clinical outcome.
PMCID: PMC2821911  PMID: 20169063
2.  Genetic Variation at the IRF7/PHRF1 Locus Is Associated With Autoantibody Profile and Serum Interferon-α Activity in Lupus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(2):553-561.
Interferon-α (IFNα) is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Genetic variation near IRF7 is implicated in SLE susceptibility. SLE-associated autoantibodies can stimulate IFNα production through the Toll-like receptor/IRF7 pathway. This study was undertaken to determine whether variants of IRF7 act as risk factors for SLE by increasing IFNα production and whether autoantibodies are important to this phenomenon.
We studied 492 patients with SLE (236 African American, 162 European American, and 94 Hispanic American subjects). Serum levels of IFNα were measured using a reporter cell assay, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IRF7/PHRF1 locus were genotyped.
In a joint analysis of European American and Hispanic American subjects, the rs702966 C allele was associated with the presence of anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) antibodies (odds ratio [OR] 1.83, P = 0.0069). The rs702966 CC genotype was only associated with higher serum levels of IFNα in European American and Hispanic American patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies (joint analysis P = 4.1 × 10−5 in anti-dsDNA–positive patients and P = 0.99 in anti-dsDNA–negative patients). In African American subjects, anti-Sm antibodies were associated with the rs4963128 SNP near IRF7 (OR 1.95, P = 0.0017). The rs4963128 CT and TT genotypes were associated with higher serum levels of IFNα only in African American patients with anti-Sm antibodies (P = 0.0012). In African American patients lacking anti-Sm antibodies, an effect of anti-dsDNA–rs702966 C allele interaction on serum levels of IFNα was observed, similar to the other patient groups (overall joint analysis P = 1.0 × 10−6). In European American and Hispanic American patients, the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype showed an additive effect with the rs702966 C allele on IFNα level in anti-dsDNA–positive patients.
Our findings indicate that IRF7/PHRF1 variants in combination with SLE-associated autoantibodies result in higher serum levels of IFNα, providing a biologic relevance for this locus at the protein level in human SLE in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2832192  PMID: 20112359
3.  Age- and Sex-Related Patterns of Serum Interferon-α Activity in Lupus Families 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(7):2113-2119.
Interferon-α (IFNα) levels are elevated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and may play a primary role in its pathogenesis. The purpose of this study was to determine whether serum IFNα activity in SLE patients and their healthy first-degree relatives is highest in early adulthood, when the incidence of SLE is greatest.
Serum samples from 315 SLE patients, 359 healthy first-degree relatives, and 141 healthy unrelated donors were measured for IFNα activity using a functional reporter cell assay. IFNα activity was analyzed in relation to age, and subgroups with high levels of IFNα activity were identified within the large data sets using a Mann-Whitney sliding window segmentation algorithm. The significance of each subgrouping was ranked by Kruskal-Wallis testing.
Age was inversely correlated with IFNα activity in female SLE patients (r = −0.20, P = 0.001) as well as their healthy female first-degree relatives (r = −0.16, P = 0.02). In male patients and their healthy male first-degree relatives, there was no significant overall correlation between age and serum IFNα activity. The segmentation algorithm revealed significantly increased IFNα activity between the ages of 12 and 22 years in female SLE patients and between the ages of 16 and 29 years in male SLE patients. Both male and female healthy first-degree relatives had significantly decreased IFNα activity after the age of 50 years.
Serum IFNα activity is higher in younger individuals in the SLE family cohorts, and this tendency is accentuated in affected individuals. This age-related pattern of IFNα activity may contribute to the increased incidence of SLE in early adulthood, and interestingly, males and females had similar age-related patterns of IFNα activity.
PMCID: PMC2729701  PMID: 18576315
4.  Reduced serum concentrations of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in Egyptian patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: Relation to disease activity 
Recently, vitamin D deficiency has been implicated as a potential environmental factor triggering some autoimmune disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)). In addition, patients with SLE, especially those with increased disease activity, were suggested to have decreased vitamin D level, suggesting that vitamin D might play a role in regulating autoantibody production.
To assess 25 hydroxy vitamin D [25(OH)D] status in Egyptian patients with SLE and its relation to disease activity. Clinical evaluation and assay of serum 25(OH)D, total calcium, phosphorous, alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and parathyroid hormone (PTH) were done on 60 SLE patients in comparison to 60 matched-healthy subjects. Serum 25(OH)D levels <30 and 10 ng/ml were defined as vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency, respectively.
Serum 25(OH)D was significantly lower in patients than in controls (26.33±12.05 vs. 42.66±9.20 respectively, p<0.0001), with 13.30% and 60% being deficient and insufficient, respectively. Serum 25(OH)D levels were lower with increased disease activity (p=0.03) and frequency of photosensitivity(p=0.02) and photoprotection (p=0.002). Systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI) score (OR: 2.72, 95% CI: 1.42–5.18, P=0.002), photosensitivity (OR: 3.6, 95% CI: 1.9–6.8, P<0.01) and photoprotection (OR: 6.7, 95% CI: 2.9–8.8, P<0.001) were significant predictors of 25(OH)D level among SLE cases.
Low vitamin D status is prevalent in Egyptian SLE patients despite plentiful exposure to sunlight throughout the year, and its level is negatively correlated to disease activity. Future studies looking at a potential role of vitamin D in the pathophysiology and treatment of SLE are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3628141  PMID: 22129903
Egyptian; 25 hydroxy vitamin D; photosensitivity; systemic lupus erythematosus
5.  Association of the IRF5 Risk Haplotype With High Serum Interferon-α Activity in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(8):2481-2487.
A haplotype of the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene has been associated with the risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and our previous studies have demonstrated that high levels of serum interferon-α (IFNα) activity are a heritable risk factor for SLE. The aim of this study was to determine whether the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype mediates the risk of SLE by predisposing patients to the development of high levels of serum IFNα activity.
IFNα levels in 199 SLE patients of European and Hispanic ancestry were measured with a sensitive functional reporter cell assay. The rs2004640, rs3807306, rs10488631, and rs2280714 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5 were genotyped in these patients. Haplotypes were categorized as SLE risk, neutral, or protective based on published data.
SLE patients with risk/risk and risk/neutral IRF5 genotypes had higher serum IFNα activity than did those with protective/protective and neutral/protective genotypes (P = 0.025). This differential effect of IRF5 genotype on serum IFNα levels was driven largely by SLE patients who were positive for either anti–RNA binding protein (anti-RBP) or anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) autoantibodies (P = 0.012 for risk/risk or risk/neutral versus protective/protective or neutral/protective). The rs3807306 genotype was independently associated with high serum IFNα in this autoantibody group. We found no difference in IFNα activity according to IRF5 genotype in patients lacking either type of autoantibody or in patients positive for both classes of autoantibody.
The IRF5 SLE risk haplotype is associated with higher serum IFNα activity in SLE patients, and this effect is most prominent in patients positive for either anti-RBP or anti-dsDNA autoantibodies. This study demonstrates the biologic relevance of the SLE risk haplotype of IRF5 at the protein level.
PMCID: PMC2621107  PMID: 18668568
6.  Multidimensional Single Cell Based STAT Phosphorylation Profiling Identifies a Novel Biosignature for Evaluation of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Activity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21671.
Dysregulated cytokine action on immune cells plays an important role in the initiation and progress of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex autoimmune disease. Comprehensively quantifying basal STATs phosphorylation and their signaling response to cytokines should help us to better understand the etiology of SLE.
Phospho-specific flow cytometry was used to measure the basal STAT signaling activation in three immune cell types of peripheral-blood mononuclear cells from 20 lupus patients, 9 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and 13 healthy donors (HDs). A panel of 27 cytokines, including inflammatory cytokines, was measured with Bio-Plex™ Human Cytokine Assays. Serum Prolactin levels were measured with an immunoradiometric assay. STAT signaling responses to inflammatory cytokines (interferon α [IFNα], IFNγ, interleukin 2 [IL2], IL6, and IL10) were also monitored.
We observed the basal activation of STAT3 in SLE T cells and monocytes, and the basal activation of STAT5 in SLE T cells and B cells. The SLE samples clustered into two main groups, which were associated with the SLE Disease Activity Index 2000, their erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and their hydroxychloroquine use. The phosphorylation of STAT5 in B cells was associated with cytokines IL2, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), and IFNγ, whereas serum prolactin affected STAT5 activation in T cells. The responses of STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5 to IFNα were greatly reduced in SLE T cells, B cells, and monocytes, except for the STAT1 response to IFNα in monocytes. The response of STAT3 to IL6 was reduced in SLE T cells.
The basal activation of STATs signaling and reduced response to cytokines may be helpful us to identify the activity and severity of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3142107  PMID: 21799742
7.  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Vitamin D Deficiency Are Associated with Shorter Telomere Length among African Americans: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63725.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects African American females. The causes of SLE are unknown but postulated to be a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the possible environmental triggers. In this study we evaluated relationships between vitamin D status, cellular aging (telomere length) and anti-telomere antibodies among African American Gullah women with SLE. The study population included African American female SLE patients and unaffected controls from the Sea Island region of South Carolina. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were measured using a nonchromatographic radioimmunoassay. Telomere length was measured in genomic DNA of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR. Anti-telomere antibody levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Patients with SLE had significantly shorter telomeres and higher anti-telomere antibody titers compared to age- and gender-matched unaffected controls. There was a positive correlation between anti-telomere antibody levels and disease activity among patients and a significant correlation of shorter telomeres with lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in both patients and controls. In follow-up examination of a subset of the patients, the patients who remained vitamin D deficient tended to have shorter telomeres than those patients whose 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were repleted. Increasing 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in African American patients with SLE may be beneficial in maintaining telomere length and preventing cellular aging. Moreover, anti-telomere antibody levels may be a promising biomarker of SLE status and disease activity.
PMCID: PMC3658981  PMID: 23700431
8.  Restoration of regulatory and effector T cell balance and B cell homeostasis in systemic lupus erythematosus patients through vitamin D supplementation 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(5):R221.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a T and B cell-dependent autoimmune disease characterized by the appearance of autoantibodies, a global regulatory T cells (Tregs) depletion and an increase in Th17 cells. Recent studies have shown the multifaceted immunomodulatory effects of vitamin D, notably the expansion of Tregs and the decrease of Th1 and Th17 cells. A significant correlation between higher disease activity and lower serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels [25(OH)D] was also shown.
In this prospective study, we evaluated the safety and the immunological effects of vitamin D supplementation (100 000 IU of cholecalciferol per week for 4 weeks, followed by 100 000 IU of cholecalciferol per month for 6 months.) in 20 SLE patients with hypovitaminosis D.
Serum 25(OH)D levels dramatically increased under vitamin D supplementation from 18.7±6.7 at day 0 to 51.4±14.1 (p<0.001) at 2 months and 41.5±10.1 ng/mL (p<0.001) at 6 months. Vitamin D was well tolerated and induced a preferential increase of naïve CD4+ T cells, an increase of regulatory T cells and a decrease of effector Th1 and Th17 cells. Vitamin D also induced a decrease of memory B cells and anti-DNA antibodies. No modification of the prednisone dosage or initiation of new immunosuppressant agents was needed in all patients. We did not observe SLE flare during the 6 months follow-up period.
This preliminary study suggests the beneficial role of vitamin D in SLE patients and needs to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.
PMCID: PMC3580532  PMID: 23075451
9.  IFNα Serum Levels Are Associated with Endothelial Progenitor Cells Imbalance and Disease Features in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86069.
IFNα has been largely implicated in the ethiopathogenesis of autoimmune diseases but only recently it has been linked to endothelial damage and accelerated atherosclerosis in autoimmunity. In addition, proinflammatory conditions are supposed to be implicated in the cardiovascular status of these patients. Since a role for IFNα in endothelial damage and impaired Endothelial Progenitor Cell (EPC) number and function has been reported in other diseases, we aimed to evaluate the potential associations of IFNα serum levels on EPC populations and cytokine profiles in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients.
pre-EPC, EPC and mature EPC (mEPC) populations were quantified by flow cytometry analyzing their differential CD34, CD133 and VEGFR2 expression in blood samples from 120 RA patients, 52 healthy controls (HC), and 83 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients as disease control. Cytokine serum levels were measured by immunoassays and clinical and immunological data, including cardiovascular (CV) events and CV risk factors, were retrospectively obtained by reviewing clinical records.
Long-standing, but not recent onset RA patients displayed a significant depletion of all endothelial progenitor populations, unless high IFNα levels were present. In fact, the IFNhigh RA patient group (n = 40, 33%), showed increased EPC levels, comparable to SLE patients. In addition, high IFNα serum levels were associated with higher disease activity (DAS28), presence of autoantibodies, higher levels of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and MIP-1α, lower amounts of TGF-β, and increased mEPC/EPC ratio, thus suggesting higher rates of endothelial damage and an endothelial repair failure. Finally, the relationship between high IFNα levels and occurrence of CV events observed in RA patients seems to support this hypothesis.
IFNα serum marker could be used to identify a group of RA patients with increased disease activity, EPC imbalance, enhanced proinflammatory profile and higher cardiovascular risk, probably due, at least in part, to an impaired endothelial repair.
PMCID: PMC3897639  PMID: 24465874
10.  Association of IRF5 polymorphisms with activation of the interferon α pathway 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(3):611-617.
The genetic association of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility has been convincingly established. To gain understanding of the effect of IRF5 variation in individuals without SLE, a study was undertaken to examine whether such genetic variation predisposes to activation of the interferon α (IFNα) pathway.
Using a computer simulated approach, 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes of IRF5 were tested for association with mRNA expression levels of IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible genes and chemokines in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from individuals of European (CEU), Han Chinese (CHB), Japanese (JPT) and Yoruba Nigerian (YRI) backgrounds. IFN-inducible gene expression was assessed in LCLs from children with SLE in the presence and absence of IFNα stimulation.
The major alleles of IRF5 rs13242262 and rs2280714 were associated with increased IRF5 mRNA expression levels in the CEU, CHB+JPT and YRI samples. The minor allele of IRF5 rs10488631 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU (pc=0.0005, 0.01 and 0.04, respectively). A haplotype containing these risk alleles of rs13242262, rs10488631 and rs2280714 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU LCLs. In vitro studies showed specific activation of IFN-inducible genes in LCLs by IFNα.
SNPs of IRF5 in healthy individuals of a number of ethnic groups were associated with increased mRNA expression of IRF5. In European-derived individuals, an IRF5 haplotype was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression. Identifying individuals genetically predisposed to increased IFN-inducible gene and chemokine expression may allow early detection of risk for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3135414  PMID: 19854706
11.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
12.  Influence of Atg5 Mutation in SLE Depends on Functional IL-10 Genotype 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78756.
Increasing evidence supports the involvement of autophagy in the etiopathology of autoimmune diseases. Despite the identification of autophagy-related protein (Atg)-5 as one of the susceptibility loci in systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE), the consequences of the carriage of these mutations for patients remain unclear. The present work analyzed the association of Atg5 rs573775 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) with SLE susceptibility, IFNα, TNFα and IL-10 serum levels, and clinical features, in 115 patients and 170 healthy individuals. Patients who where carriers of the rs573775 T* minor allele presented lower IFNα levels than those with the wild genotype, whereas the opposite result was detected for IL-10. Thus, since IL-10 production was regulated by rs1800896 polymorphisms, we evaluated the effect of this Atg5 mutation in genetically high and low IL-10 producers. Interestingly, we found that the rs573775 T* allele was a risk factor for SLE in carriers of the high IL-10 producer genotype, but not among genetically low producers. Moreover, IL-10 genotype influences SLE features in patients presenting the Atg5 mutated allele. Specifically, carriage of the rs573775 T* allele led to IL-10 upregulation, reduced IFNα and TNFα production and a low frequency of cytopenia in patients with the high IL-10 producer genotype, whereas patients with the same Atg5 allele that were low IL-10 producers presented reduced amounts of all these cytokines, had a lower prevalence of anti-dsDNA antibodies and the latest onset age. In conclusion, the Atg5 rs573775 T* allele seems to influence SLE susceptibility, cytokine production and disease features depending on other factors such as functional IL-10 genotype.
PMCID: PMC3799636  PMID: 24205307
The critical role of IFNα in the pathogenesis of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been highlighted in recent years. Exposure of young lupus-prone NZB/W F1 mice to IFNα in vivo leads to an accelerated lupus phenotype that is dependent on T cells and is associated with elevated serum levels of BAFF, IL-6 and TNFα, increased splenic expression of IL-6 and IL-21, formation of large germinal centers and the generation of large numbers of short-lived plasma cells that produce IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibodies. Here we show that both IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibodies are pathogenic in IFNα accelerated lupus and their production can be dissociated by using low dose CTLA4Ig. Only high dose CTLA4Ig attenuates both IgG2a and IgG3 autoantibody production and significantly delays death from lupus nephritis. In contrast, BAFF/APRIL blockade has no effect on germinal centers or the production of IgG anti-dsDNA antibodies but, if given at the time of IFNα challenge, delays the progression of lupus by attenuating systemic and renal inflammation. Temporary remission of nephritis induced by combination therapy with cyclophosphamide (CTX), anti-CD40L antibody and CTLA4Ig is associated with abrogation of germinal centers and depletion of short-lived plasma cells but relapse occurs more rapidly than in conventional NZB/W F1 mice. Our study demonstrates that IFNα renders NZB/W F1 relatively resistant to therapeutic intervention and suggests that the IFN signature should be taken into account when randomizing patients into and analyzing the results of human clinical trials in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3140572  PMID: 21705616
14.  B Lymphocyte Stimulator Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Higher Circulating Levels in African American Patients and Increased Production after Influenza Vaccination in Patients with Low Baseline Levels 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(12):3931-3941.
Examine the relationship between circulating B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) levels and humoral responses to influenza vaccination in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, as well as the effect of vaccination on BLyS levels. Clinical and serologic features of SLE that are associated with elevated BLyS levels will also be investigated.
Clinical history, disease activity measurements and blood specimens were collected from sixty SLE patients at baseline and after influenza vaccination. Sera were tested for BLyS levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies, serum IFN-α activity, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and humoral responses to influenza vaccination.
Thirty percent of SLE patients had elevated BLyS levels, with African American patients having higher BLyS levels than European American patients (p=0.006). Baseline BLyS levels in patients were not correlated with humoral responses to influenza vaccination (p=0.863), and BLyS levels increased post-vaccination only in the subset of patients in the lowest quartile of BLyS levels (p=0.0003). Elevated BLyS levels were associated with increased disease activity as measured by SLEDAI, PGA, and SLAM in European Americans (p=0.035, p=0.016, p=0.018, respectively), but not in African Americans. Elevated BLyS levels were also associated with anti-nRNP (p=0.0003) and decreased 25(OH)D (p=0.018). Serum IFN-α activity was a significant predictor of elevated BLyS in a multivariate analysis (p=0.002).
African American SLE patients have higher BLyS levels regardless of disease activity. Humoral response to influenza vaccination is not correlated with baseline BLyS levels in SLE patients and only those patients with low baseline BLyS levels demonstrate an increased BLyS response after vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3234134  PMID: 22127709
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Cytokines
15.  Potential benefits of vitamin D for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Dermato-endocrinology  2012;4(2):146-151.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex multi-system autoimmune disease. Vitamin D deficiency has been proposed as an environmental trigger of disease onset and as a contributor to increased SLE activity. SLE patients are prone to develop vitamin D deficiency because of photosensitivity leading to sun avoidance and other sun protective measures. The impact of vitamin D on immune function previously seen in vitro and in cross-sectional studies has now been shown in prospective human studies, strengthening the evidence that there is a connection between SLE and vitamin D status. This review describes the role of vitamin D on immune function, prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with SLE, identify risk factors for deficiency, describe the consequences of deficiency in SLE patients, and review current vitamin D recommendations for patients with SLE.
PMCID: PMC3427193  PMID: 22928070
systemic lupus erythematosus; vitamin D; autoimmune disease; review
16.  B cell- and BAFF-dependence of IFNα-exaggerated disease in SLE-prone NZM 2328 mice1 
IFNα is a potent activator of innate and adaptive immunity, and its administration to pre-autoimmune (NZBxNZW)F1 mice promotes virulent systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease. Given the known contributions of B cells and BAFF to SLE, we evaluated the ability of IFNα administration to induce disease in wild-type (WT), B cell-deficient, and BAFF-deficient NZM 2328 mice. Whereas WT mice rapidly developed proliferative glomerulonephritis (GN), marked proteinuria, and increased mortality in response to IFNα administration, B cell-deficient mice developed neither renal pathology nor clinical disease. Moreover, BAFF-deficient mice, despite developing limited glomerular IgG and C3 deposition, also remained free of histological GN and clinical disease. Strikingly, similar T cell expansion and serum IgG responses were observed in Adv-IFN-treated WT and BAFF-deficient mice despite their disparate pathological and clinical responses, whereas numbers of activated B cells increased in WT mice but not in BAFF-deficient mice. Nonetheless, B cell, plasma cell, and T cell infiltration of the kidneys in Adv-IFN-treated WT mice was similar to that in WT mice treated with Adv-control. Its ability to promote SLE disease in WT mice notwithstanding, IFNα administration failed to drive the preferential expansion of CD4+ memory T cells that occurs during the natural course of disease, and glomerular infiltration of macrophages failed to associate with development of disease. These results collectively suggest that therapeutic targeting in SLE of BAFF and/or B cells in SLE could be successful even in states of IFNα overexpression. Moreover, our results document important biological differences between IFNα-driven and spontaneous “natural” SLE disease.
PMCID: PMC3074466  PMID: 21383240
rodent; systemic lupus erythematosus; cytokines
17.  A serum inhibitor of immune regulation in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1978;62(3):713-715.
Normal mononuclear leukocytes were incubated with serum from patients with active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and healthy subjects and then studied on lymphoproliferative tests. Serum from SLE patients that contained an autoantibody to a subpopulation of thymus-derived (T) lymphocytes inhibited suppressor T-cell activity induced with concanavalin A. These sera did not inhibit lymphoproliferative responses or suppression by monocytoid cells. Mitogen-activated suppressor cells were not inhibited with serum from SLE patients or healthy subjects lacking T-cell autoantibody. This abnormality may contribute to the altered immune response that occurs with SLE.
PMCID: PMC371819  PMID: 308514
18.  Vitamin D levels in Indian systemic lupus erythematosus patients: association with disease activity index and interferon alpha 
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with several autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The major source of vitamin D is sunlight but exposure of SLE patients to UV rays has been shown to exacerbate disease pathology. Studies in various populations have shown an association between low vitamin D levels and higher SLE disease activity.
We enrolled 129 patients who fulfilled American College of Rheumatology criteria in the study. There were 79 treatment-naïve cases and 50 patients who were under treatment for underlying SLE. There were 100 healthy subjects from similar geographical areas included as controls. Plasma 25-OH vitamin D3 and interferon (IFN)-α levels were quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The gene expression level of IFN-α was determined by quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
Plasma 25-OH vitamin D3 significantly correlated in an inverse manner with systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI) scores (P <0.0001, r = -0.42), anti-dsDNA (P <0.0001, r = -0.39), plasma IFN-α (P <0.0001, r = -0.43) and levels of IFN-α gene expression (P = 0.0009, r = -0.45). Further, plasma levels of IFN-α positively correlated with gene expression of IFN-α (P <0.0001, r = 0.84). Treatment-naïve SLE patients displayed significantly higher plasma levels of IFN-α compared to patients under treatment (P <0.001) and controls (P <0.001).
These results suggest an important role of vitamin D in regulating disease activity in SLE patients and the need to supplement vitamin D in their treatment.
PMCID: PMC3979045  PMID: 24507879
19.  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
20.  PTPN22 Association in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) with Respect to Individual Ancestry and Clinical Sub-Phenotypes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69404.
Protein tyrosine phosphatase non-receptor type 22 (PTPN22) is a negative regulator of T-cell activation associated with several autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Missense rs2476601 is associated with SLE in individuals with European ancestry. Since the rs2476601 risk allele frequency differs dramatically across ethnicities, we assessed robustness of PTPN22 association with SLE and its clinical sub-phenotypes across four ethnically diverse populations. Ten SNPs were genotyped in 8220 SLE cases and 7369 controls from in European-Americans (EA), African-Americans (AA), Asians (AS), and Hispanics (HS). We performed imputation-based association followed by conditional analysis to identify independent associations. Significantly associated SNPs were tested for association with SLE clinical sub-phenotypes, including autoantibody profiles. Multiple testing was accounted for by using false discovery rate. We successfully imputed and tested allelic association for 107 SNPs within the PTPN22 region and detected evidence of ethnic-specific associations from EA and HS. In EA, the strongest association was at rs2476601 (P = 4.7×10−9, OR = 1.40 (95% CI = 1.25–1.56)). Independent association with rs1217414 was also observed in EA, and both SNPs are correlated with increased European ancestry. For HS imputed intronic SNP, rs3765598, predicted to be a cis-eQTL, was associated (P = 0.007, OR = 0.79 and 95% CI = 0.67–0.94). No significant associations were observed in AA or AS. Case-only analysis using lupus-related clinical criteria revealed differences between EA SLE patients positive for moderate to high titers of IgG anti-cardiolipin (aCL IgG >20) versus negative aCL IgG at rs2476601 (P = 0.012, OR = 1.65). Association was reinforced when these cases were compared to controls (P = 2.7×10−5, OR = 2.11). Our results validate that rs2476601 is the most significantly associated SNP in individuals with European ancestry. Additionally, rs1217414 and rs3765598 may be associated with SLE. Further studies are required to confirm the involvement of rs2476601 with aCL IgG.
PMCID: PMC3737240  PMID: 23950893
21.  Constitutive Phosphorylation of Interferon Receptor A-Associated Signaling Proteins in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41414.
Overexpression of type I interferon (IFN-I)-induced genes is a common feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and its experimental models, but the participation of endogenous overproduction of IFN-I on it is not clear. To explore the possibility that abnormally increased IFN-I receptor (IFNAR) signaling could participate in IFN-I-induced gene overexpression of SLE, we examined the phosphorylation status of the IFNAR-associated signaling partners Jak1 and STAT2, and its relation with expression of its physiologic inhibitor SOCS1 and with plasma levels of IFNα and IFN-like activity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from SLE patients with or without disease activity and healthy controls cultured in the presence or in the absence of IFNβ were examined by immunoprecipitation and/or western blotting for expression of the two IFNAR chains, Jak1, Tyk2, and STAT2 and their phosphorylated forms. In SLE but not in healthy control PBMC, Jak1 and STAT2 were constitutively phosphorylated, even in the absence of disease activity (basal pJak1: controls vs. active SLE p<0.0001 and controls vs. inactive SLE p = 0.0006; basal pSTAT2: controls vs. active and inactive SLE p<0.0001). Although SOCS1 protein was slightly but significantly decreased in SLE in the absence or in the presence of IFNβ (p = 0.0096 to p<0.0001), in SOCS1 mRNA levels were markedly decreased (p = 0.036 to p<0.0001). IFNβ induced higher levels of the IFN-I-dependent MxA protein mRNA in SLE than in healthy controls, whereas the opposite was observed for SOCS1. Although there was no relation to increased serum IFNα, active SLE plasma could induce expression of IFN-dependent genes by normal PBMC.
These findings suggest that in some SLE patients IFN-I dependent gene expression could be the result of a low IFNAR signaling threshold.
PMCID: PMC3408474  PMID: 22859983
22.  25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;61(10):1387-1395.
Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D, vitamin D) are associated with a higher frequency of cardiovascular disease and risk factors in the general population. Vitamin D deficiency has been noted in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The objective of this study was to evaluate the associations of serum 25(OH)D levels with cardiovascular risk factors in women with SLE.
Data collected in 181 women with SLE included demographics, SLE activity and damage assessments, cardiovascular risk factors, medications, and laboratory assessments of inflammatory markers and 25(OH)D levels. Multiple linear and logistic regressions were used to estimate the association of 25(OH)D with cardiovascular risk factors.
Mean age and disease duration were 43.2 and 11.9 years, respectively. Mean 25(OH)D was 27.1 ng/ml and 62.2% had 25(OH)D levels <30 ng/ml. In unadjusted analyses, lower 25(OH)D levels were significantly associated with higher diastolic blood pressure, low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c), lipoprotein (a), body mass index (BMI), and fibrinogen levels, as well as self-reported hypertension and diabetes. Lower 25(OH)D levels were also significantly associated with higher SLE disease activity and damage scores. After adjustment for age, seasonal variation, and race/ethnicity, lower 25(OH)D levels were also significantly related to higher fasting serum glucose. With further adjustment for BMI, associations between 25(OH)D and cardiovascular risk factors were no longer significant.
This study demonstrates that vitamin D levels are low in women with SLE and significant associations exist with selected cardiovascular risk factors although most of these associations can be explained by BMI.
PMCID: PMC2785856  PMID: 19790113
23.  Serum Type I Interferon Activity Is Dependent on Maternal Diagnosis in Anti-SSA/Ro–Positive Mothers of Children With Neonatal Lupus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):541-546.
The type I interferon (IFN) pathway is activated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high serum levels of IFN are associated with anti-SSA/Ro autoantibodies. To investigate the clinical features associated with type I IFN production in vivo, we compared serum IFN activity in individuals with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies who were asymptomatic with that in individuals with clinical manifestations of SLE or Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Antibody-positive sera from 84 mothers of children with manifestations of neonatal lupus were studied for type I IFN activity, using a functional reporter cell assay. Maternal health status was characterized as asymptomatic, SS, SLE, pauci-SLE, or pauci-SS, based on a screening questionnaire, telephone interview, and review of medical records. The prefix “pauci-” indicates symptoms insufficient for a formal classification of the disease.
Only 4% of asymptomatic mothers had high serum type I IFN activity, compared with 73% with pauci-SLE (P = 5.7 × 10−5), 35% with SLE (P = 0.011), and 32% of patients with SS (P = 0.032). One of the 4 patients with pauci-SS had high levels of IFN. The majority of patients for whom longitudinal data were available had stable type I IFN activity over time, and changes in IFN activity were not clearly accompanied by changes in the clinical diagnosis.
Patients with SLE, patients with pauci-SLE, and patients with SS are more likely to have high serum IFN activity than asymptomatic individuals with SSA/Ro autoantibodies, suggesting that these autoantibodies are insufficient for activation of the type I IFN pathway, and that disease-specific factors are important for type I IFN generation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2755051  PMID: 18240214
24.  Lupus Serum IgG Induces Skin Inflammation through the TNFR1 Signaling Pathway 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by high autoantibody levels and multiorgan tissue damage, including kidney and skin. Cutaneous manifestations are frequent in patients with SLE, yet the etiology and pathogenesis of skin injury in SLE remains unclear. We reasoned that lupus serum containing high levels of autoreactive Ig contributes to skin injury. In this article, we report that serum from SLE patients and lupus-prone mice induces skin inflammation following intradermal injection into normal mice. Lupus serum depleted of IgG failed to cause skin inflammation. Monocytes, but not lymphocytes, were found to be crucial in the development of lupus serum-induced skin inflammation, and lupus serum IgG induced monocyte differentiation into dendritic cells (DCs). TNF-α and TNFR1, but not TNFR2, were required for the development of lupus serum-induced skin inflammation. TNFR1, not TNFR2, represented the main molecule expressed in the skin lesions caused by injected lupus serum. Our studies demonstrated that lupus serum IgG causes skin injury by involving the TNFR1 signaling pathway and monocyte differentiation to DCs. Accordingly, disruption of the TNFR1-mediated signaling pathway and blockade of DC generation may prove to be of therapeutic value in patients with cutaneous lupus erythematosus.
PMCID: PMC2926650  PMID: 20483718
25.  High serum IFN-α activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2007;8(6):492-502.
Interferon α (IFN-α) levels are elevated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); however it is not known whether high serum IFN-α activity is a cause or a result of the disease. We studied 266 SLE patients and 405 of their healthy relatives, and frequently found high serum IFN-α activity in both patients and healthy relatives as compared to healthy unrelated individuals. High IFN-α activity was clustered in specific families in both SLE patients and their healthy first-degree relatives, suggesting a heritable trait. Heritability was also supported by quantitative familial correlation of IFN-α activity, concordance in affected sib pairs and frequent transmission of the high IFN-α activity trait from parents to offspring. Autoantibodies to RNA-binding proteins and double-stranded DNA were associated with high IFN-α activity in SLE patients; however these autoantibodies were very uncommon in healthy family members and did not explain the observed familial correlations. The frequency of high IFN-α activity was similar across all studied ethnic backgrounds. These data suggest that high serum IFN-α activity is a complex heritable trait, which plays a primary role in SLE pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2702174  PMID: 17581626
interferon α; systemic lupus erythematosus; genetics; epidemiology; autoantibodies

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