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.
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.
Lupus T cells; Epigenetics; DNA methylation; ERK pathway signaling; PKCδ
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.
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.
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.
Polymorphism in the MECP2 locus is associated with lupus and, at least in part, contributes to the interferon signature observed in lupus patients.
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.
lupus; T cells; CD4+ T cells; methylation; methylome
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.
DNA methylation; epigenetics; histone modification; lupus; miRNA; SLE; T cells
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.
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.
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.
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.
Lupus; DNA methyltransferases; DHEA; DNMT3A; DNMT3B; DNMT1
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.
Epigenetics; Genetics; Lupus; Multiple Sclerosis; Rheumatoid Arthritis
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.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE); genetics; lupus nephritis
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.
Epigenetics; DNA methylation; lupus; psoriasis; atopic dermatitis; vitiligo
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.
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.
Extracellular Receptor Kinase (ERK); Systemic Lupus erythematosus (SLE); Mouse
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.
In recent years, the field of epigenetics has grown dramatically and has become one of the most dynamic and fast-growing branches of molecular biology. The amount of diseases suspected of being influenced by DNA methylation is rising steadily and includes common diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer, major psychosis, lupus and Parkinson’s disease. Due to cellular heterogeneity of methylation patterns, epigenetic analyses of single cells become a necessity. One rationale is that DNA methylation profiles are highly variable across individual cells, even in the same organ, dependent on the function of the gene, disease state, exposure to environmental factors (e.g. radiation, drugs or nutrition), stochastic fluctuations and various other causes. Using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-slide microreaction system, we present here a methylation-sensitive PCR analysis, the restriction enzyme-based single-cell methylation assay (RSMA), in the analysis of DNA methylation patterns in single cells. This method addresses the problems of cell heterogeneity in epigenetics research; it is comparably affordable, avoids complicated microfluidic systems and offers the opportunity for high-throughput screening, as many single cells can be screened in parallel. In addition to this study, critical principles and caveats of single cell methylation analyses are discussed.
The etiology of autoimmune diseases remains largely unknown. Concordance rates in monozygotic twins are lower than 50% while genome-wide association studies propose numerous significant associations representing only a minority of patients. These lines of evidence strongly support other complementary mechanisms involved in the regulation of genes expression ultimately causing overt autoimmunity. Alterations in the post-translational modification of histones and DNA methylation are the two major epigenetic mechanisms that may potentially cause a breakdown of immune tolerance and the perpetuation of autoimmune diseases. In recent years several studies both in clinical settings and experimental models proposed that the epigenome may hold the key to a better understanding of autoimmunity initiation and perpetuation. More specifically, data support the impact of epigenetic changes in systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other autoimmune diseases, in some cases based on mechanistical observations. We herein discuss what we currently know and what we expect will come in the next future. Ultimately, epigenetic treatments already being used in oncology may soon prove beneficial also in autoimmune diseases.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune inflammatory disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies directed against nuclear antigens such as nucleosomes, DNA and histone proteins found within the body’s cells and plasma. Autoantibodies may induce disease by forming immune complexes that lodge in target organs or by crossreacting with targeted antigens and damaging tissue. In addition to autoantibody production, apoptotic defects and impaired removal of apoptotic cells contribute to an overload of autoantigens that initiate an autoimmune response. Besides the well-recognized genetic susceptibility to SLE, environmental and epigenetic factors play a crucial role in disease pathogenesis as evidenced by monozygotic twins typically being discordant for disease. Changes in DNA methylation and histone acetylation alter gene expression and are thought to contribute to the epigenetic deregulation in disease. In SLE, global and gene-specific DNA methylation changes have been demonstrated to occur. Additionally, aberrant histone acetylation is evident in individuals with SLE. Moreover, histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) have been shown to reverse the skewed expression of multiple genes involved in SLE. In this review, we discuss the implications of epigenetic alterations in the development and progression of SLE, and how therapeutics designed to alter histone acetylation status may constitute a promising avenue to target disease.
Rheumatic disease can loosely be described as any painful condition affecting the loco-motor system, including joints, muscles, connective tissues, and soft tissues around the joints and bones. There is a wide spectrum of rheumatic diseases, many of which involve autoimmunity, including systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. A significant body of evidence now links aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression with rheumatic disease and points toward the use of epigenetic targeting agents as potential new treatment options, particularly for those conditions associated with an autoimmune element. In this perspective, I will briefly cover the current knowledge surrounding this area in the field of rheumatology.
Double bromodomain proteins bind to acetylated lysines in histones, bringing associated histone modification and nucleosome remodeling activity to chromatin. The ability of bromodomain regulators to alter chromatin status and control gene expression has long been appreciated to be important in the development of certain human cancers. However, bromodomain proteins have now been found also to be critical, non-redundant players in diverse, non-malignant phenotypes, directing transcriptional programs that control adipogenesis, energy metabolism and inflammation. The fact that such different processes are functionally linked by the same molecular machinery suggests a common epigenetic basis to understand and interpret the origins of several important co-morbidities, such as asthma or cancer that occurs in obesity, and complex inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and insulin resistance that may be built on a common pro-inflammatory foundation.
Hybrids such as maize (Zea mays) or domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) grow bigger and stronger than their parents. This is also true for allopolyploids such as wheat (Triticum spp.) or frog (i.e. Xenopus and Silurana) that contain two or more sets of chromosomes from different species. The phenomenon, known as hybrid vigor or heterosis, was systematically characterized by Charles Darwin (1876). The rediscovery of heterosis in maize a century ago has revolutionized plant and animal breeding and production. Although genetic models for heterosis have been rigorously tested, the molecular bases remain elusive. Recent studies have determined the roles of nonadditive gene expression, small RNAs, and epigenetic regulation, including circadian-mediated metabolic pathways, in hybrid vigor and incompatibility, which could lead to better use and exploitation of the increased biomass and yield in hybrids and allopolyploids for food, feed, and biofuels.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that predominantly affects women and presents with manifestations derived from the involvement of multiple organs including the kidneys, joints, nervous system, and hematopoietic organs. Immune system aberrations, as well as heritable, hormonal, and environmental factors interplay in the expression of organ damage. Recent contributions from different fields have developed our understanding of SLE and reshaped current pathogenic models. Here, we review novel information that deals with 1) genes associated with disease expression, 2) immune cell molecular abnormalities that lead to autoimmune pathology, 3) the role of hormones and sex chromosomes in the development of disease, 4) environmental and epigenetic factors thought to contribute to the expression of SLE. Finally, we emphasize molecular defects intimately associated with the disease process of SLE that represent ideal therapeutic targets and disease biomarkers.
Regulatory factor X-box 1 (RFX1) can interact with DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) and histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1), and RFX1 down-regulation contributes to DNA hypomethylation and histone H3 hyperacetylation at the cluster of differentiation (CD) 11a and CD70 promoters in CD4+ T cells of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This leads to CD11a and CD70 overexpression, thereby triggering autoimmune responses. In order to provide more insight into the epigenetic mechanisms leading to the deregulation of autoimmune-related genes in SLE, we asked whether RFX1 is involved in regulating histone 3 lysine 9 (H3K9) tri-methylation at the CD11a and CD70 promoters in SLE CD4+ T cells.
CD4+ T cell samples were isolated from 15 SLE patients and 15 healthy controls. H3K9 tri-methylation levels were measured by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and real-time quantitative PCR. CD4+ T cells were transfected with plasmids using the Human T cell Nucleofector Kit. RFX1 and histone methyltransferase suppressor of variegation 3-9 (Drosophila) homolog 1 (SUV39H1) interaction was determined by co-immunoprecipation (co-IP) and Western blot and immunofluorescence staining. CD11a and CD70 mRNA levels were measured by real-time RT-PCR.
H3K9 tri-methylation levels were significantly reduced within the CD11a and CD70 promoter regions in SLE CD4+ T cells. RFX1 co-immunoprecipitated with SUV39H1 at the CD11a and CD70 promoters in healthy control CD4+ T cells. Overexpressing or knocking-down RFX1 revealed that RFX1 expression correlated with H3K9 tri-methylation levels, as well as CD11a and CD70 expression levels in CD4+ T cells.
RFX1 recruits SUV39H1 to the promoter regions of the CD11a and CD70 genes in CD4+ T cells, thereby regulating local H3K9 tri-methylation levels. These findings shed further light on the central role of RFX1 down-regulation in the epigenetic de-repression of auto-immune genes in SLE.
The catalytic subunit α isoform of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2Acα) activity, protein, and mRNA have been found increased in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) T cells and to contribute to decreased IL-2 production. The PP2Acα promoter activity is controlled epigenetically through the methylation of a CpG within a cAMP response element (CRE) motif defined by its promoter. We considered that hypomethylation may account for the increased expression of PP2Acα in patients with SLE. Using bisulfite sequencing, we found that SLE T cells displayed decreased DNA methylation in the promoter region compared with normal T cells. More importantly, we found that the CRE-defined CpG, which binds p-CREB, is significantly less methylated in SLE compared with normal T cells, and the levels of methylation correlated with decreased amounts of DNA methyltransferase 1 transcripts. Methylation intensity correlated inversely with levels of PP2Acα mRNA and SLE disease activity. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed more binding of p-CREB to the CRE site in SLE T cells, resulting in increased expression of PP2Acα. We propose that PP2Acα represents a new methylation-sensitive gene that, like the previously reported CD70 and CD11a, contributes to the pathogenesis of SLE.
T cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) display increased amounts of spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) which is involved in the aberrant CD3/T cell receptor-mediated signaling process and increased amounts of cAMP response element modulator (CREM) α which suppresses the production of interleukin-2. Because SYK expression can be suppressed by CREM α we asked why CREM α fails to suppress SYK expression in SLE T cells.
Healthy T cells were overexpressed with CREM α expression vector and SYK expression and phosphorylation was measured. A newly identified CRE site on SYK promoter was characterized by ChIP and EMSA. The CREM α-mediated repression of SYK expression was further evaluated by analyzing SYK promoter activity. T cells from SLE patients and healthy individuals were subjected to ChIP to evaluate the CREM α binding and histone-H3 acetylation.
We demonstrate that increased CREM α level can suppress SYK expression by direct binding on a CRE site of the SYK promoter in T cells from healthy individuals but failed to do so in SLE T cells. We demonstrate that failure of CREM α to suppress SYK expression in SLE T cells is due to weaker binding to the CRE site of the SYK promoter compared to healthy T cells because the promoter site is hypoacetylatylated and therefore of limited access to transcription factors.
Epigenetic alteration of the SYK promoter in SLE T cells results in inability of the transcriptional repressor CREM α to bind and suppress the expression of SYK resulting in aberrant T cell signaling.
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.
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.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a predominantly female autoimmune disease that affects multiple organ systems. Herein, we report on an X-chromosome gene association with SLE. Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) is located on chromosome Xq28 and encodes for a protein that plays a critical role in epigenetic transcriptional regulation of methylation-sensitive genes. Utilizing a candidate gene association approach, we genotyped 21 SNPs within and around MECP2 in SLE patients and controls. We identify and replicate association between SLE and the genomic element containing MECP2 in two independent SLE cohorts from two ethnically divergent populations. These findings are potentially related to the overexpression of methylation-sensitive genes in SLE.
Tumid lupus erythematosus is a rare variant of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus that is characterized clinically by smooth, nonscarring, pink to violaceous papules or plaques without evidence of surface change. Histopathologic features include superficial and deep lymphocytic infiltration in a perivascular and periadnexal distribution, with dermal interstitial mucin deposition and focal or absent dermoepidermal junction involvement. These clinical and histopathologic features can be challenging to differentiate from other cutaneous diseases. This is particularly true because patients with tumid lupus erythematosus usually do not have other manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus or cutaneous lupus erythematosus. We present two cases of tumid lupus erythematosus, one associated with concomitant systemic lupus erythematosus and the other occurring concurrently with discoid lupus erythematosus. Furthermore, we demonstrate the rare occurrence of a patient with tumid LE occurring below the waist at a photoprotected site.
tumid lupus erythematosus; systemic lupus erythematosus; discoid lupus erythematosus; chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus