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1.  Dissecting complex epigenetic alterations in human lupus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic relapsing autoimmune disease that primarily afflicts women, and both a genetic predisposition and appropriate environmental exposures are required for lupus to develop and flare. The genetic requirement is evidenced by an increased concordance in identical twins and by the validation of at least 35 single-nucleotide polymorphisms predisposing patients to lupus. Genes alone, though, are not enough. The concordance of lupus in identical twins is often incomplete, and when concordant, the age of onset is usually different. Lupus is also not present at birth, but once the disease develops, it typically follows a chronic relapsing course. Thus, genes alone are insufficient to cause human lupus, and additional factors encountered in the environment and over time are required to initiate the disease and subsequent flares. The nature of the environmental contribution, though, and the mechanisms by which environmental agents modify the immune response to cause lupus onset and flares in genetically predisposed people have been controversial. Reports that the lupus-inducing drugs procainamide and hydralazine are epigenetic modifiers, that epigenetically modified T cells are sufficient to cause lupus-like autoimmunity in animal models, and that patients with active lupus have epigenetic changes similar to those caused by procainamide and hydralazine have prompted a growing interest in how epigenetic alterations contribute to this disease. Understanding how epigenetic mechanisms modify T cells to contribute to lupus requires an understanding of how epigenetic mechanisms regulate gene expression. The roles of DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNAs in lupus pathogenesis will be reviewed here.
doi:10.1186/ar4125
PMCID: PMC3746410  PMID: 23374884
2.  Ethnic Differences in DNA Methyltransferases Expression in Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Journal of Clinical Immunology  2012;33(2):342-348.
Purpose
Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune inflammatory disease with both genetic and epigenetic etiologies. Evidence suggests that deregulation of specific genes through epigenetic mechanisms may be a contributing factor to SLE pathology. There is increasing evidence that DNA methyltransferase activity may be involved. This study demonstrated modulation in expression of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) according to ethnicity in patients diagnosed with SLE. Furthermore, differential expression in one of the DNMTs was found in a subset of lupus patients on dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) therapy.
Methods
Real-time PCR analyses of DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a cohort of African American and European American lupus and non-lupus women were conducted. Also, global DNA methylation was assessed using the MethylFlashTM methylated quantification colorimetric assay.
Results
Significant increase in DNMT3A (p < 0.001) was shown in lupus patients when compared to age-matched healthy controls. This increase was associated with a higher SLEDI index. More striking was that expression levels for African American (AA) women were higher than European American women in the lupus populations. A subset of AA women on DHEA therapy showed a significant decrease (p < 0.05) in DNMT3A expression in comparison to lupus patients not on the therapy. DHEA is an androgenic steroid found in low levels in the serum of lupus patients. Supplementation of this hormone has been shown to be beneficial to some lupus patients. DHEA was not shown to effect DNMT1 or DNMT3B expression. Increased expression was also noted in DNMT3B (p < 0.05) in lupus patients compared to age-matched healthy controls. However, no significant difference was noted in DNMT1 (p = 0.2148) expression between lupus patients and healthy controls. Although increases were detected in de novo methyltransferases, a global decrease (p < 0.001) in 5-methycytosine was observed in lupus patients when compared to age-matched healthy controls.
Conclusion
These findings suggest that epigenetic changes may play a critical role in the manifestations of the disease observed among ethnic groups, particularly African American women who often have a higher incidence of lupus. DHEA therapy effects on DNMT3A expression in AA women warrant further investigation in a larger population.
doi:10.1007/s10875-012-9803-z
PMCID: PMC3573322  PMID: 23054340
Lupus; DNA methyltransferases; DHEA; DNMT3A; DNMT3B; DNMT1
3.  The role of epigenetic variation in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus 
The focus of the present review is on the extent to which epigenetic alterations influence the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies directed at nuclear self-antigens. A DNA methylation defect in CD4+ T cells has long been observed in idiopathic and drug-induced lupus. Recent studies utilizing high-throughput technologies have further characterized the nature of the DNA methylation defect in lupus CD4+ T cells. Emerging evidence in the literature is revealing an increasingly interconnected network of epigenetic dysregulation in lupus. Recent reports describe variable expression of a number of regulatory microRNAs in lupus CD4+ T cells, some of which govern the expression of DNA methyltransferase 1. While studies to date have revealed a significant role for epigenetic defects in the pathogenesis of lupus, the causal nature of epigenetic variation in lupus remains elusive. Future longitudinal epigenetic studies in lupus are therefore needed.
doi:10.1186/ar3484
PMCID: PMC3308098  PMID: 22044622
4.  Variants within MECP2, a key transcriptional regulator, are associated with increased susceptibility to lupus and differential gene expression in lupus patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1076-1084.
Objective
Both genetic and epigenetic factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of lupus. Herein, we study methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) polymorphism in a large cohort of lupus patients and controls, and determine functional consequences of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype.
Methods
We genotyped 18 SNPs within MECP2, located on chromosome Xq28, in a large cohort of European-derived lupus patients and controls. We studied the functional effects of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype by determining gene expression profiles in B cell lines from female lupus patients with and without the lupus-associated MECP2 risk haplotype.
Results
We confirm, replicate, and extend the genetic association between lupus and genetic markers within MECP2 in a large independent cohort of European-derived lupus patients and controls (OR= 1.35, p= 6.65×10−11). MECP2 is a dichotomous transcriptional regulator that either activates or represses gene expression. We identified 128 genes that are differentially expressed in lupus patients with the disease-associated MECP2 haplotype; most (~81%) are upregulated. Genes that were upregulated have significantly more CpG islands in their promoter regions compared to downregulated genes. Gene ontology analysis using the differentially expressed genes revealed significant association with epigenetic regulatory mechanisms suggesting that these genes are targets for MECP2 regulation in B cells. Further, at least 13 of the 104 upregulated genes are interferon-regulated genes. The disease-risk MECP2 haplotype is associated with increased expression of the MECP2 transcriptional co-activator CREB1, and decreased expression of the co-repressor HDAC1.
Conclusion
Polymorphism in the MECP2 locus is associated with lupus and, at least in part, contributes to the interferon signature observed in lupus patients.
doi:10.1002/art.24360
PMCID: PMC2734382  PMID: 19333917
5.  Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Analysis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Reveals Persistent Hypomethylation of Interferon Genes and Compositional Changes to CD4+ T-cell Populations 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003678.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with known genetic, epigenetic, and environmental risk factors. To assess the role of DNA methylation in SLE, we collected CD4+ T-cells, CD19+ B-cells, and CD14+ monocytes from 49 SLE patients and 58 controls, and performed genome-wide DNA methylation analysis with Illumina Methylation450 microarrays. We identified 166 CpGs in B-cells, 97 CpGs in monocytes, and 1,033 CpGs in T-cells with highly significant changes in DNA methylation levels (p<1×10−8) among SLE patients. Common to all three cell-types were widespread and severe hypomethylation events near genes involved in interferon signaling (type I). These interferon-related changes were apparent in patients collected during active and quiescent stages of the disease, suggesting that epigenetically-mediated hypersensitivity to interferon persists beyond acute stages of the disease and is independent of circulating interferon levels. This interferon hypersensitivity was apparent in memory, naïve and regulatory T-cells, suggesting that this epigenetic state in lupus patients is established in progenitor cell populations. We also identified a widespread, but lower amplitude shift in methylation in CD4+ T-cells (>16,000 CpGs at FDR<1%) near genes involved in cell division and MAPK signaling. These cell type-specific effects are consistent with disease-specific changes in the composition of the CD4+ population and suggest that shifts in the proportion of CD4+ subtypes can be monitored at CpGs with subtype-specific DNA methylation patterns.
Author Summary
We have analyzed DNA methylation, an epigenetic modification that influences gene expression, in lupus patients and control subjects. Our analysis was run in three different immune cell types, T-cells, B-cells, and monocytes, to discern common epigenetic effects in lupus from cell type-specific effects. We have identified a lupus-related reduction in methylation around genes that respond to interferon, a cytokine that induces inflammation in response to pathogens. This hypomethylation suggests that lupus patients are hypersensitive to interferon, as DNA methylation is typically an inhibitor of gene expression. We also find that this hypersensitivity is preserved in lupus patients beyond active stages of the disease, and this may help explain the chronic, recurrent nature of the disease. In addition, we have identified DNA methylation changes in T-cells that suggest an alteration in the proportions of these cells in lupus patients, which may help explain the disease process.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003678
PMCID: PMC3738443  PMID: 23950730
6.  Genome-wide DNA methylation study suggests epigenetic accessibility and transcriptional poising of interferon-regulated genes in naïve CD4+ T cells from lupus patients 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;43:78-84.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease characterized by multi-system involvement and autoantibody production. Abnormal T cell DNA methylation and type-I interferon play an important role in the pathogenesis of lupus. We performed a genome-wide DNA methylation study in two independent sets of lupus patients and matched healthy controls to characterize the DNA methylome in naïve CD4+ T cells in lupus. DNA methylation was quantified for over 485,000 methylation sites across the genome, and differentially methylated sites between lupus patients and controls were identified and then independently replicated. Gene expression analysis was also performed from the same cells to investigate the relationship between the DNA methylation changes observed and mRNA expression levels. We identified and replicated 86 differentially methylated CG sites between patients and controls in 47 genes, with the majority being hypomethylated. We observed significant hypomethylation in interferon-regulated genes in naïve T cells from lupus patients, including IFIT1, IFIT3, MX1, STAT1, IFI44L, USP18, TRIM22 and BST2, suggesting epigenetic transcriptional accessibility in these genetic loci. Indeed, the majority of the hypomethylated genes (21 out of 35 hypomethylated genes) are regulated by type I interferon. The hypomethylation in interferon-regulated genes was not related to lupus disease activity. Gene expression analysis showed overexpression of these genes in total but not naïve CD4+ T cells from lupus patients. Our data suggest epigenetic “poising” of interferon-regulated genes in lupus naïve CD4+ T cells, argue for a novel pathogenic implication for abnormal T cell DNA methylation in lupus, and suggest a mechanism for type-I interferon hyper-responsiveness in lupus T cells.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2013.04.003
PMCID: PMC3790645  PMID: 23623029
Lupus; naïve CD4+ T cells; methylome; DNA methylation
7.  Sex-specific differences in the relationship between genetic susceptibility, T cell DNA demethylation and lupus flare severity 
Journal of Autoimmunity  2012;38(2-3):J216-J222.
Lupus is less common in men than women, and the reason is incompletely understood. Current evidence indicates that lupus flares when genetically predisposed individuals encounter environmental agents that trigger the disease, and that the environmental contribution is mediated at least in part by T cell DNA demethylation. We hypothesized that lupus disease activity is directly related to total genetic risk and inversely related to T cell DNA methylation levels in each patient. Since women are predisposed to lupus in part because of their second X chromosome, we also hypothesized that men would require a greater genetic risk, a greater degree of autosomal T cell DNA demethylation, or both, to achieve a lupus flare equal in severity to women. Genetic risk was determined by genotyping men and women with lupus across 32 confirmed lupus susceptibility loci. The methylation status of two T cell autosomal genes known to demethylate in proportion to disease activity, KIR2DL4 (KIR) and PRF1, was measured by bisulfite sequencing. Lupus disease activity was determined by the SLEDAI. Interactions between genetic score, T cell DNA demethylation, and the SLEDAI score were compared between the men and women by regression analysis. Combining the degree of DNA demethylation with the genetic risk score for each patient demonstrated that the (genetic risk)/(DNA methylation) ratio increased directly with disease activity in both men and women with lupus. Importantly, men required a greater (genetic risk)/(DNA methylation) ratio to achieve a SLEDAI score equivalent to women (p=0.010 for KIR and p=0.0054 for PRF1). This difference was not explained by a difference in the genetic risk or T cell DNA demethylation alone, suggesting a genetic-epigenetic interaction. These results suggest that genetic risk and T cell DNA demethylation interact in lupus patients to influence the severity of lupus flares, and that men require a higher genetic risk and/or greater degree of T cell DNA demethylation to achieve a lupus flare equal in severity to women.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2011.11.008
PMCID: PMC3313010  PMID: 22305513
Genetic risk; epigenetics; DNA methylation; lupus; genetic-epigenetic interaction; sex-disparity
8.  microRNAs in lupus 
Autoimmunity  2014;47(4):272-285.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of an array of pathogenic autoantibodies, including high-affinity anti-dsDNA IgG antibodies, which plays an important role in disease development and progression. Lupus preferentially affects women during their reproductive years. The pathogenesis of lupus is contributed by both genetic factors and epigenetic modifications that arise from exposure to the environment. Epigenetic marks, including DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications and microRNAs (miRNAs), interact with genetic programs to regulate immune responses. Epigenetic modifications influence gene expression and modulate B cell functions, such as class switch DNA recombination (CSR), somatic hypermutation (SHM) and plasma cell differentiation, thereby informing the antibody response. Epigenetic dysregulation can result in aberrant antibody responses to exogenous antigens or self-antigens, such as chromatin, histones and dsDNA in lupus. miRNAs play key roles in the post-transcriptional regulation of most gene-regulatory pathways and regulate both the innate and the adaptive immune responses. In mice, dysregulation of miRNAs leads to aberrant immune responses and development of systemic autoimmunity. Altered miRNA expression has been reported in human autoimmune diseases, including lupus. The dysregulation of miRNAs in lupus could be the result of multiple environmental factors, such as sex hormones and viral or bacterial infection. Modulation of miRNA is a potential therapeutic strategy for lupus.
doi:10.3109/08916934.2014.915955
PMCID: PMC4239026  PMID: 24826805
activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID); antibody; autoantibody; autoimmunity; B cell; class switch DNA recombination (CSR); epigenetics; microRNA; somatic hypermutation (SHM); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
9.  Epigenetics in systemic lupus erythematosus: leading the way for specific therapeutic agents 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disorder of an unclearly determined etiology. Past studies, both epidemiological and biological, have implicated epigenetic influences in disease etiology and pathogenesis. Epigenetics describes changes in gene expression not linked to alterations in the underlying genomic sequence, and is most often typified by three modifications: methylation of DNA, addition of various side chains to histone groups and transcriptional regulation via short ncRNA sequences. The purpose of this article is to review the most important advances that link epigenetic changes to lupus. The contribution of DNA methylation changes to lupus pathogenesis is discussed. These include the role of apoptotic DNA, ultraviolet radiation, endogenous retroviruses, dietary contributions and aging. Hypomethylation of specific genes overexpressed in lupus T cells such as ITGAL (CD11a), CD40LG (CD40L), TNFSF7 (CD70), KIR2DL4 and PRF1 (perforin), and CD5 in lupus B cells seem to play an important role. Moreover, histone modifications such as increased global H4 acetylation in monocytes are highly associated with SLE. NcRNAs, especially miR-21, miR-148a and miR-126, control other elements of epigenetic regulation; particularly, transcription of the maintenance DNA methylation enzyme DNMT1. Epigenetic contributions to SLE etiology have been well established, but much is still unknown. Epigenome-wide studies coupled with functional analysis of the epigenomic changes discovered will uncover novel pathways important in disease pathogenesis. Epigenetic therapies for SLE may be feasible in the future, particularly if they are designed to target specific regions within the genome.
doi:10.2217/ijr.11.32
PMCID: PMC3241218  PMID: 22184503
DNA methylation; epigenetics; histone modification; lupus; miRNA; SLE; T cells
10.  Functional characterization of the MECP2/IRAK1 lupus risk haplotype in human T cells and a human MECP2 transgenic mouse 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;41:168-174.
Genetic polymorphism in MECP2/IRAK1 on chromosome Xq28 is a confirmed and replicated susceptibility locus for lupus. High linkage disequilibrium in this locus suggests that both MECP2 and IRAK1 are candidate genes for the disease. DNA methylation changes in lupus T cells play a central role in the pathogenesis of lupus, and MeCp-2 (encoded by MECP2) is a master regulator of gene expression and is also known to recruit DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) during DNA synthesis. Using human T cells from normal individuals with either the lupus risk or the lupus protective haplotype in MECP2/IRAK1, we demonstrate that polymorphism in this locus increases MECP2 isoform 2 mRNA expression in stimulated but not unstimulated T cells. By assessing DNA methylation levels across over 485,000 methylation sites across the entire genome, we further demonstrate that the lupus risk variant in this locus is associated with significant DNA methylation changes, including in the HLA-DR and HLA-DQ loci, as well as interferon-related genes such as IFI6, IRF6, and BST2. Further, using a human MECP2 transgenic mouse, we show that overexpression of MECP2 alters gene expression in stimulated T cells. This includes overexpression of Eif2c2 that regulates the expression of multiple microRNAs (such as miR-21), and the histone demethylase Jhdm1d. In addition, we show that MECP2 transgenic mice develop antinuclear antibodies. Our data suggest that the lupus associated variant in the MECP2/IRAK1 locus has the potential to affect all 3 epigenetic mechanisms: DNA methylation, microRNA expression, and histone modification. Importantly, these data support the notion that variants within the MECP2 gene can alter DNA methylation in other genetic loci including the HLA and interferon-regulated genes, thereby providing evidence for genetic-epigenetic interaction in lupus.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2012.12.012
PMCID: PMC3622940  PMID: 23428850
MECP2; IRAK1; lupus; epigenetics; polymorphism; DNA methylation; T cells; transgenic mouse
11.  Genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in CD4+ T cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Epigenetics  2011;6(5):593-601.
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic-relapsing autoimmune disease of incompletely understood etiology. Recent evidence strongly supports an epigenetic contribution to the pathogenesis of lupus. To understand the extent and nature of dysregulated DNA methylation in lupus T cells, we performed a genome-wide DNA methylation study in CD4+ T cells in lupus patients compared to normal healthy controls. Cytosine methylation was quantified in 27,578 CG sites located within the promoter regions of 14,495 genes. We identified 236 hypomethylated and 105 hypermethylated CG sites in lupus CD4+ T cells compared to normal controls, consistent with widespread DNA methylation changes in lupus T cells. Of interest, hypomethylated genes in lupus T cells include CD9, which is known to provide potent T-cell co-stimulation signals. Other genes with known involvement in autoimmunity such as MMP9 and PDGFRA were also hypomethylated. The BST2 gene, an interferon-inducible membrane-bound protein that helps restrict the release of retroviral particles was also hypomethylated in lupus patients. Genes involved in folate biosynthesis, which plays a role in DNA methylation, were overrepresented among hypermethylated genes. In addition, the transcription factor RUNX3 was hypermethylated in patients, suggesting an impact on T-cell maturation. Protein-protein interaction maps identified a transcription factor, HNF4a, as a regulatory hub affecting a number of differentially methylated genes. Apoptosis was also an overrepresented ontology in these interaction maps. Further, our data suggest that the methylation status of RAB22A, STX1B2, LGALS3BP, DNASE1L1 and PREX1 correlates with disease activity in lupus patients.
doi:10.4161/epi.6.5.15374
PMCID: PMC3121972  PMID: 21436623
lupus; T cells; CD4+ T cells; methylation; methylome
12.  PKCδ OXIDATION CONTRIBUTES TO ERK INACTIVATION IN LUPUS T CELLS1 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2964-2974.
Objective
CD4+ T cells from patients with active lupus have impaired ERK pathway signaling that decreases DNA methyltransferase expression, resulting in DNA demethylation, overexpression of immune genes and autoimmunity. The ERK pathway defect is due to impaired phosphorylation of T505 in the PKCδ activation loop. However, the mechanisms preventing PKCδ T505 phosphorylation in lupus T cells are unknown. Others have reported that oxidative modifications, and nitration in particular, of T cells as well as serum proteins correlate with lupus disease activity. We hypothesized that nitration inactivates PKCδ, contributing to impaired ERK pathway signaling in lupus T cells.
Methods
CD4+ T cells were purified from lupus patients and controls then stimulated with PMA. Signaling protein levels, nitration and phosphorylation were quantitated by immunoprecipitation and immunoblotting of T cell lysates. Transfections were performed by electroporation.
Results
Treating CD4+ T cells with peroxynitrite nitrated PKCδ, preventing PKCδ T505 phosphorylation and inhibiting ERK pathway signaling similar to that observed in lupus T cells. Patients with active lupus had higher nitrated T cell PKCδ levels than controls which correlated directly with disease activity, and anti-nitrotyrosine immunoprecipitations demonstrated that nitrated PKCδ, but not unmodified PKCδ, was refractory to PMA stimulated T505 phosphorylation, similar to PKCδ in peroxynitrite treated cells.
Conclusions
Oxidative stress causes PKCδ nitration, which prevents its phosphorylation and contributes to the decreased ERK signaling in lupus T cells. These results identify PKCδ as a link between oxidative stress and the T cell epigenetic modifications in lupus.
doi:10.1002/art.34503
PMCID: PMC3414679  PMID: 22549474
Systemic lupus erythematosus; PKCδ; T cells; Signal transduction; Oxidative stress
13.  Aberrant T cell ERK pathway signaling and chromatin structure in lupus 
Autoimmunity reviews  2008;8(3):196-198.
Human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibodies to nuclear components with subsequent immune complex formation and deposition in multiple organs. A combination of genetic and environmental factors is required for disease development, but how the environment interacts with the immune system in genetically predisposed hosts to cause lupus is unclear. Recent evidence suggests that environmental agents may alter T cell chromatin structure and gene expression through effects on DNA methylation, a repressive epigenetic mechanism promoting chromatin inactivation, to cause lupus in people with the appropriate genetic background. DNA methylation is regulated by ERK pathway signaling, and abnormalities in ERK pathway signaling may contribute to immune dysfunction in lupus through epigenetic effects on gene expression. This article reviews current evidence for epigenetic abnormalities, and in particular DNA demethylation, in the pathogenesis of idiopathic and some forms of drug induced lupus, and how impaired ERK pathway signaling may contribute to the development of human lupus through effects on T cell DNA methylation.
doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2008.07.043
PMCID: PMC2642928  PMID: 18723128
Lupus T cells; Epigenetics; DNA methylation; ERK pathway signaling; PKCδ
14.  Epigenetic mechanisms in lupus 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2010;22(5):10.1097/BOR.0b013e32833ae915.
Purpose of review
Epigenetic mechanisms regulate gene expression, and epigenetic gene dysregulation is implicated in the pathogenesis of a growing number of disorders. Of the autoimmune diseases, epigenetic mechanisms are most clearly involved in human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Herein, we summarize earlier work on epigenetic mechanisms contributing to human SLE. We first focus on the roles of DNA demethylation and DNA methyltransferase enzyme dysregulation, and we then review recent and important advances in this field.
Recent findings
Many advances in the past year have been made. The importance of DNA demethylation in SLE was confirmed through twin studies. New T lymphocyte immune genes that are activated by DNA demethylation, and that may participate in autoreactivity, were identified. Finally, novel mechanisms contributing to DNA demethylation in SLE were discovered.
Summary
A comprehensive understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms contributing to SLE will likely enable development of new therapeutic agents and strategies that target the dysregulated genes or correct the aberrant epigenetic modifications. Although specific agents have not yet been tested in SLE, the studies reviewed hold promise that these approaches will be useful in the treatment of human lupus.
doi:10.1097/BOR.0b013e32833ae915
PMCID: PMC3819175  PMID: 20445453
chromatin; DNA methylation; epigenetics; histone; lupus
15.  Genetic Factors Predisposing to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis 
Seminars in nephrology  2010;30(2):164-176.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by a loss of tolerance to self-antigens and the production of high titers of serum autoantibodies. Lupus nephritis can affect up to 74% of SLE patients, particularly those of Hispanic and African ancestries, and remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality. A genetic etiology in SLE is now well substantiated. Thanks to extensive collaborations, extraordinary progress has been made in the last few years and the number of confirmed genes predisposing to SLE has catapulted to approximately 30. Studies of other forms of genetic variation, such as CNVs and epigenetic alterations, are emerging and promise to revolutionize our knowledge about disease mechanisms. However, to date little progress has been made on the identification of genetic factors specific to lupus nephritis. On the near horizon, two large-scale efforts, a collaborative meta-analysis of lupus nephritis based on all genome-wide association data in Caucasians and parallel scans in four other ethnicities, are poised to make fundamental discoveries in the genetics of lupus nephritis. Collectively, these findings will demonstrate that a broad array of pathways underlines the genetic heterogeneity of SLE and lupus nephritis, and provide potential avenues for the development of novel therapies.
doi:10.1016/j.semnephrol.2010.01.007
PMCID: PMC2847514  PMID: 20347645
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE); genetics; lupus nephritis
16.  The Pathology of T Cells in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Journal of Immunology Research  2014;2014:419029.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by the production of a wide array of autoantibodies. Thus, the condition was traditionally classified as a “B-cell disease”. Compelling evidence has however shown that without the assistance of the helper T lymphocytes, it is indeed difficult for the “helpless” B cells to become functional enough to trigger SLE-related inflammation. T cells have been recognized to be crucial in the pathogenicity of SLE through their capabilities to communicate with and offer enormous help to B cells for driving autoantibody production. Recently, a number of phenotypic and functional alterations which increase the propensity to trigger lupus-related inflammation have been identified in lupus T cells. Here, potential mechanisms involving alterations in T-cell receptor expressions, postreceptor downstream signalling, epigenetics, and oxidative stress which favour activation of lupus T cells will be discussed. Additionally, how regulatory CD4+, CD8+, and γδ T cells tune down lupus-related inflammation will be highlighted. Lastly, while currently available outcomes of clinical trials evaluating therapeutic agents which manipulate the T cells such as calcineurin inhibitors indicate that they are at least as efficacious and safe as conventional immunosuppressants in treating lupus glomerulonephritis, larger clinical trials are undoubtedly required to validate these as-yet favourable findings.
doi:10.1155/2014/419029
PMCID: PMC4017881  PMID: 24864268
17.  Diet Influences Expression of Autoimmune Associated Genes and Disease Severity By Epigenetic Mechanisms in a Transgenic Lupus Model 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(7):1872-1881.
Objective
Lupus flares when genetically predisposed people encounter appropriate environmental agents. Current evidence indicates that the environment contributes by inhibiting T cell DNA methylation, causing overexpression of normally silenced genes. DNA methylation depends on both dietary transmethylation micronutrients and Erk-regulated DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) levels. We used transgenic mice to study interactions between diet, Dnmt1 levels and genetic predisposition on the development and severity of lupus.
Methods
A doxycycline-inducible Erk defect was bred into lupus-resistant (C57BL/6) or lupus-susceptible (C57BL/6xSJL) mouse strains. Doxycycline treated mice were fed a standard commercial diet for eighteen weeks then switched to diets supplemented(MS) or restricted(MR) intransmethylation micronutrients. Disease severity was assessed by anti-dsDNA antibodies, proteinuria, hematuria and histopathology of kidney tissues. Pyrosequencing was used to determine micronutrient effects on DNA methylation.
Results
Doxycycline induced modest levels of anti-dsDNA antibodies in C57BL/6 mice and higher levels in C57BL/6xSJL mice. Doxycycline-treated C57BL/6xSJL mice developed hematuria and glomerulonephritis on the MR and standard but not the MS diet. In contrast C57BL/6 mice developed kidney disease only on the MR diet. Decreasing Erk signaling and methyl donors also caused demethylation and overexpression of the CD40lg gene in female mice, consistent with demethylation of the second X chromosome. Both the dietary methyl donor content and duration of treatment influenced methylation and expression of the CD40lg gene.
Conclusions
Dietary micronutrients that affect DNA methylation can exacerbate or ameliorate SLE disease in this transgenic murine lupus model, and contribute to lupus susceptibility and severity through genetic/epigenetic interactions.
doi:10.1002/art.37967
PMCID: PMC3735138  PMID: 23576011
Extracellular Receptor Kinase (Erk; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE; CD70; micronutrients; CD40L; KirL1
18.  Epigenetics in human autoimmunity 
Autoimmunity  2008;41(4):278.
Epigenetic mechanisms are essential for normal development and function of the immune system. Similarly, a failure to maintain epigenetic homeostasis in the immune response due to factors including environmental influences, leads to aberrant gene expression, contributing to immune dysfunction and in some cases the development of autoimmunity in genetically predisposed individuals. This is exemplified by systemic lupus erythematosus, where environmentally induced epigenetic changes contribute to disease pathogenesis in those genetically predisposed. Similar interactions between genetically determined susceptibility and environmental factors are implicated in other systemic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, as well as in organ specific autoimmunity. The skin is exposed to a wide variety of environmental agents, including UV radiation, and is prone to the development of autoimmune conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and some forms of vitiligo, depending on environmental and genetic influences. Herein we review how disruption of epigenetic mechanisms can alter immune function using lupus as an example, and summarize how similar mechanisms may contribute to other human autoimmune rheumatic and skin diseases.
doi:10.1080/08916930802024616
PMCID: PMC2819669  PMID: 18432408
Epigenetics; DNA methylation; lupus; psoriasis; atopic dermatitis; vitiligo
19.  Environmental Exposure, Estrogen and Two X Chromosomes are Required for Disease Development in an Epigenetic Model of Lupus 
Journal of Autoimmunity  2011;38(2-3):J135-J143.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease primarily afflicting women. The reason for the gender bias is unclear, but genetic susceptibility, estrogen and environmental agents appear to play significant roles in SLE pathogenesis. Environmental agents can contribute to lupus susceptibility through epigenetic mechanisms. We used (C57BL/6 × SJL)F1 mice transgenic for a dominant-negative MEK (dnMEK) that was previously shown to be inducibly and selectively expressed in T cells. In this model, induction of the dnMEK by doxycycline treatment suppresses T cell ERK signaling, decreasing DNA methyltransferase expression and resulting in DNA demethylation, overexpression of immune genes Itgal (CD11a) and Tnfsf7 (CD70), and anti-dsDNA antibody. To examine the role of gender and estrogen in this model, male and female transgenic mice were neutered and implanted with time-release pellets delivering placebo or estrogen. Doxycycline induced IgG anti-dsDNA antibodies in intact and neutered, placebo-treated control female but not male transgenic mice. Glomerular IgG deposits were also found in the kidneys of female but not male transgenic mice, and not in the absence of doxycycline. Estrogen enhanced anti-dsDNA IgG antibodies only in transgenic, ERK-impaired female mice. Decreased ERK activation also resulted in overexpression and demethylation of the X-linked methylation-sensitive gene CD40lg in female but not male mice, consistent with demethylation of the second X chromosome in the females. The results show that both estrogen and female gender contribute to the female predisposition in lupus susceptibility through hormonal and epigenetic X chromosome effects and through suppression of ERK signaling by environmental agents.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2011.11.001
PMCID: PMC3312994  PMID: 22142890
Extracellular Receptor Kinase (ERK); Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE); Mouse
20.  Environmental Factors, Toxicants and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an immune-complex-mediated multi-systemic autoimmune condition of multifactorial etiology, which mainly affects young women. It is currently believed that the onset of SLE and lupus flares are triggered by various environmental factors in genetically susceptible individuals. Various environmental agents and toxicants, such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, occupationally- and non-occupationally-related chemicals, ultraviolet light, infections, sex hormones and certain medications and vaccines, have been implicated to induce SLE onset or flares in a number case series, case-control and population-based cohort studies and very few randomized controlled trials. Here, we will describe some of these recognized environmental lupus triggering and perpetuating factors and explain how these factors potentially bias the immune system towards autoimmunity through their interactions with genetic and epigenetic alterations. Further in-depth exploration of how potentially important environmental factors mechanistically interact with the immune system and the genome, which trigger the onset of SLE and lupus flares, will certainly be one of the plausible steps to prevent the onset and to decelerate the progress of the disease.
doi:10.3390/ijms150916043
PMCID: PMC4200809  PMID: 25216337
environmental factors; toxicants; genetics; epigenetics; T-cells; systemic lupus erythematosus
21.  The genetics and epigenetics of autoimmune diseases 
Journal of autoimmunity  2009;33(1):3.
Self tolerance loss is fundamental to autoimmunity. While understanding of immune regulation is expanding rapidly, the mechanisms causing loss of tolerance in most autoimmune diseases remain elusive. Autoimmunity is believed to develop when genetically predisposed individuals encounter environmental agents that trigger the disease. Recent advances in the genetic and environmental contributions to autoimmunity suggest that interactions between genetic elements and epigenetic changes caused by environmental agents may be responsible for inducing autoimmune disease. Genetic loci predisposing to autoimmunity are being identified through multi-center consortiums, and the number of validated genes is growing rapidly. Recent reports also indicate that the environment can contribute to autoimmunity by modifying gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms. This article will review current understanding of the genetics and epigenetics of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, using systemic lupus erythematosus as the primary example. Other autoimmune diseases may have a similar foundation.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2009.03.007
PMCID: PMC2819418  PMID: 19349147
Epigenetics; Genetics; Lupus; Multiple Sclerosis; Rheumatoid Arthritis
22.  Metabolic control of the epigenome in systemic Lupus erythematosus 
Autoimmunity  2013;47(4):256-264.
Epigenetic mechanisms are proposed to underlie aberrant gene expression in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that results in dysregulation of the immune system and loss of tolerance. Modifications of DNA and histones require substrates derived from diet and intermediary metabolism. DNA and histone methyltransferases depend on S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) as a methyl donor. SAM is generated from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and methionine by methionine adenosyltransferase (MAT), a redox-sensitive enzyme in the SAM cycle. The availability of B vitamins and methionine regulate SAM generation. The DNA of SLE patients is hypomethylated, indicating dysfunction in the SAM cycle and methyltransferase activity. Acetyl-CoA, which is necessary for histone acetylation, is generated from citrate produced in mitochondria. Mitochondria are also responsible for de novo synthesis of flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) for histone demethylation. Mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation is the dominant source of ATP. The depletion of ATP in lupus T cells may affect MAT activity as well as adenosine monophosphate (AMP) activated protein kinase (AMPK), which phosphorylates histones and inhibits mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR). In turn, mTOR can modify epigenetic pathways including methylation, demethylation, and histone phosphorylation and mediates enhanced T-cell activation in SLE. Beyond their role in metabolism, mitochondria are the main source of reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI), which activate mTOR and regulate the activity of histone and DNA modifying enzymes. In this review we will focus on the sources of metabolites required for epigenetic regulation and how the flux of the underlying metabolic pathways affects gene expression.
doi:10.3109/08916934.2013.834495
PMCID: PMC4034124  PMID: 24128087
Epigenetics; genetics; metabolism; SLE
23.  Epigenetic mechanisms in systemic lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases 
Trends in molecular medicine  2011;17(12):714-724.
The pathogenic origin of autoimmune diseases can be traced to both genetic susceptibility and epigenetic modifications arising from exposure to the environment. Epigenetic modifications influence gene-expression and alter cellular functions without modifying the genomic sequence. CpG-DNA methylation, histone-tail modifications, and micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are the main epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that are involved in the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases is essential for the introduction of effective, target-directed, and tolerated therapies. In this review, we summarize recent findings that signify the importance of epigenetic modifications in autoimmune disorders while focusing on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We discuss future directions in basic research, autoimmune diagnostics, and applied therapy.
doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2011.07.005
PMCID: PMC3225699  PMID: 21885342
24.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003336
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
25.  MicroRNAs Implicated in the Immunopathogenesis of Lupus Nephritis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by the deposition of immune complexes due to widespread loss of immune tolerance to nuclear self-antigens. Deposition in the renal glomeruli results in the development of lupus nephritis (LN), the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in SLE. In addition to the well-recognized genetic susceptibility to SLE, disease pathogenesis is influenced by epigenetic regulators such as microRNAs (miRNAs). miRNAs are small, noncoding RNAs that bind to the 3′ untranslated region of target mRNAs resulting in posttranscriptional gene modulation. miRNAs play an important and dynamic role in the activation of innate immune cells and are critical in regulating the adaptive immune response. Immune stimulation and the resulting cytokine milieu alter miRNA expression while miRNAs themselves modify cellular responses to stimulation. Here we examine dysregulated miRNAs implicated in LN pathogenesis from human SLE patients and murine lupus models. The effects of LN-associated miRNAs in the kidney, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, macrophages, mesangial cells, dendritic cells, and splenocytes are discussed. As the role of miRNAs in immunopathogenesis becomes delineated, it is likely that specific miRNAs may serve as targets for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of LN and other pathologies.
doi:10.1155/2013/430239
PMCID: PMC3741610  PMID: 23983769

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