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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Egyptian; 25 hydroxy vitamin D; photosensitivity; systemic lupus erythematosus
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
rodent; systemic lupus erythematosus; cytokines
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.
systemic lupus erythematosus; vitamin D; autoimmune disease; review
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.
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.
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.
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.
A role for helper T cells in the induction of pathogenic lupus autoantibodies is increasingly supported by data from studies of murine lupus and patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, the poor in vitro function of SLE T cells has hampered the identification and characterization of autoantigen-specific T cells. We used recombinant fusion proteins to study the T cell proliferative response of 31 lupus patients and 27 healthy subjects to a well-characterized SLE autoantigen, the ribosomal P2 protein. Although PBMC from SLE patients showed marked impairment in the proliferative response to the common recall antigen tetanus toxoid when compared with normal subjects, a significantly greater proportion of SLE patients (32%) than normal individuals (0%) showed a T cell response to a recombinant P2 fusion protein. When the SLE patients were subgrouped according to the presence of serum anti-P autoantibody, 7 of 10 anti-P antibody-positive patients, but 0 of 20 anti-P antibody-negative SLE patients, demonstrated > 2,000 cpm [3H]thymidine incorporation and a P2 stimulation index > 5. The specificity of the T cell proliferative response for the P2 protein was confirmed by studies using a second recombinant human P2 fusion protein and by the specific activation of P2-primed T cells by recombinant P2 in secondary cultures. Moreover, the T cell proliferative response to the P2 autoantigen was mediated by CD4-positive T cells and was inhibited by anti-MHC class II antibodies. These data demonstrate the presence of autoantigen-specific T helper cells in patients with SLE and suggest that these T cells drive the production of autoantibodies by B lymphocytes.
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.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Cytokines
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.
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.
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
Current therapies for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating, potentially lethal, multifactorial systemic autoimmune disease, are limited to suppressing disease activity and are associated with multiple adverse effects. Recent advances in basic and translational sciences have elucidated a crucial role for the interferon-alpha (IFNα) pathway in the pathogenesis of this enigmatic disease. The so-called “type I interferon signature” has emerged as a major risk factor for disease activity of SLE. Multiple genes encoding for molecules within the type I interferon pathway have been associated with SLE in genome wide association studies. In addition, innate immune receptors are thought to be triggered by either endogenous and/or exogenous stimuli that lead to hypersecretion of IFNα. We review the multiple emerging treatment strategies targeting IFNα-related pathways. These include monoclonal antibodies against IFNα, anti-IFNα antibody-inducing vaccines, and inhibitors of toll-like receptors. We also summarize the current status of these pharmaceutical agents in early clinical trials.
pDC; TLR; IRF; JAK/STAT; Pin1; interferonopathies; virome; proteasome
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.
Genetic variants of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) are associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IRF5 regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and type I interferons (IFN) believed to be involved in SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the activation status of IRF5 by assessing its nuclear localization in immune cells of SLE patients and healthy donors, and to identify SLE triggers of IRF5 activation.
IRF5 nuclear localization in subpopulations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 14 genotyped SLE patients and 11 healthy controls was assessed using imaging flow cytometry. IRF5 activation and function were examined after ex vivo stimulation of healthy donor monocytes with SLE serum or components of SLE serum. Cellular localization was determined by ImageStream and cytokine expression by Q-PCR and ELISA.
IRF5 was activated in a cell type-specific manner; monocytes of SLE patients had constitutively elevated levels of nuclear IRF5 compared to NK and T cells. SLE serum was identified as a trigger for IRF5 nuclear accumulation; however, neither IFNα nor SLE immune complexes could induce nuclear localization. Instead, autoantigens comprised of apoptotic/necrotic material triggered IRF5 nuclear accumulation in monocytes. Production of cytokines IFNα, TNFα and IL6 in monocytes stimulated with SLE serum or autoantigens was distinct yet correlated with the kinetics of IRF5 nuclear localization.
This study provides the first formal proof that IRF5 activation is altered in monocytes of SLE patients that is in part contributed by the SLE blood environment.
OBJECTIVE—To study the prevalence of different causes of anaemia in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and their associations with immunological and clinical parameters and to evaluate the contribution of erythropoietin (Epo) and anti-erythropoietin (anti-Epo) autoantibodies to the development of SLE anaemia.
METHODS—132 SLE patients with anaemia (defined as haemoglobin of 12 g/dl or less for women and 13.5 g/dl or less for men) from among a total of 345 consecutive SLE patients were prospectively enrolled into the study. Standard haematological and immunological tests were performed and serum Epo and anti-Epo antibodies were assayed.
RESULTS—The identified causes were anaemia of chronic disease (ACD) n=49 (37.1%), iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) n=47 (35.6%), autoimmune haemolytic anaemia (AHA) n=19 (14.4%) and other causes n=17 (12.9%). There was significant heterogeneity in the severity of anaemia between the four groups (p<0.01) with AHA cases being on average more severe. The proportion of patients with anticardiolipin antibodies, low complement levels and anti-dsDNA differed significantly among the four groups; these markers were particularly common in patients with AHA, and uncommon in patients with IDA. Twenty one of 100 tested patients had anti-Epo antibodies. Such antibodies were seen practically only in patients with ACD (odds ratio 3.1, p=0.041) and in patients with high lupus activity (ECLAM) scores (odds ratio 1.27 per point, p=0.055). Epo response was inadequate in 42.4% and 41.2% of patients with ACD and AHA, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS—Anaemia in SLE usually takes the form of ACD and IDA, however autoimmune haemolysis is not uncommon. SLE patients with different causes of anaemia differ in regard to several immunological parameters. Epo response is blunted in anaemic SLE patients, particularly those with ACD and AHA.
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.