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1.  The influence of cathelicidin LL37 in human anti-neutrophils cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R161.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) is characterised by the autoinflammation and necrosis of blood vessel walls. The renal involvement is commonly characterised by a pauci-immune crescentic glomerulonephritis (PiCGN) with a very rapid decline in renal function. Cathelicidin LL37, an endogenous antimicrobial peptide, has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. To assess whether serum LL37 reflects renal crescentic formation, we measured the serum levels of LL37 in AAV patients with and without crescentic glomerulonephritis (crescentic GN) as compared to healthy controls (HCs). We also analysed the correlation of the serum levels of LL37 and interferon-α (IFN-α) with the clinical characteristics of the patients.
The study population consisted of 85 AAV patients and 51 HCs. In 40 ANCA-positive patients, a parallel analysis was performed, including the assessment of LL37 and IFN-α levels in the serum and renal biopsies. Of those studied, 15 AAV patients had biopsy-proven crescentic GN, and 25 AAV patients lacked crescent formation. The serum levels of cathelicidin LL37 and IFN-α were both measured by ELISA, and the clinical and serological parameters were assessed according to routine procedures. Immunofluorescence staining was performed on frozen sections of kidney needle biopsies from AAV patients with crescentic GN.
The serum levels of LL37 and IFN-α were significantly increased in AAV patients with crescentic GN compared to AAV patients without crescentic formation and HCs, and patients with high LL37 and IFN-α levels were more likely to be in the crescentic GN group. The LL37 levels were positively correlated with the IFN-α levels, and both LL37 and IFN-α levels showed a positive correlation with serum creatinine and no correlation with complement C3. The renal tissue of crescentic GN patients showed expression of LL37 and IFN-α at the Bowman’s capsule and extracellular sites, suggesting the active release of LL37 and IFN-α.
Significantly higher levels of LL-37 and IFN-α were observed in AAV patients, particularly those with crescentic formation, and LL37 and IFN-α were expressed in the renal tissue of patients with crescentic GN. These data suggest that serum levels of LL37 and IFN-α may reflect both local renal inflammation and systemic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3979017  PMID: 24286516
2.  Leukocyte and serum S100A8/S100A9 expression reflects disease activity in ANCA-associated vasculitis and glomerulonephritis 
Kidney International  2013;83(6):1150-1158.
Antineutrophil cytoplasm antibody (ANCA)–associated vasculitis (AAV) commonly results in glomerulonephritis, in which neutrophils and monocytes have important roles. The heterodimer calprotectin (S100A8/S100A9, mrp8/14) is a Toll-like receptor-4 ligand found in neutrophils and monocytes and is elevated in inflammatory conditions. By immunohistochemistry of renal biopsies, patients with focal or crescentic glomerular lesions were found to have the highest expression of calprotectin and those with sclerotic the least. Serum levels of calprotectin as measured by ELISA were elevated in patients with active AAV and the levels decreased but did not normalize during remission, suggesting subclinical inflammation. Calprotectin levels in patients with limited systemic disease increased following treatment withdrawal and were significantly elevated in patients who relapsed compared with those who did not. As assessed by flow cytometry, patients with AAV had higher monocyte and neutrophil cell surface calprotectin expression than healthy controls, but this was not associated with augmented mRNA expression in CD14+ monocytes or CD16+ neutrophils. Thus, serum calprotectin is a potential disease biomarker in patients with AAV, and may have a role in disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3675710  PMID: 23423260
ANCA; glomerulonephritis; immunology; macrophages; pathology; vasculitis
3.  Epitope analysis of anti-myeloperoxidase antibodies in propylthiouracil-induced antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(6):R196.
Increasing evidence has suggested that linear epitopes of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) directed to myeloperoxidase (MPO) might provide clues to the pathogenesis of propylthiouracil (PTU)-induced ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). This study mapped epitopes of MPO-ANCA in sera from patients with PTU-induced MPO-ANCA (with or without vasculitis) and primary AAV, aiming to analyze certain epitopes associated with the development of PTU-induced AAV.
Six recombinant linear fragments, covering the whole amino acid sequence of a single chain of MPO, were produced from Escherichia coli. Sera from 17 patients with PTU-induced AAV, 17 patients with PTU-induced MPO-ANCA but without clinical evidence of vasculitis, and 64 patients with primary AAV were collected at presentation. Of the 17 patients with PTU-induced AAV, 12 also had sera at remission. The epitope specificities were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay by using the recombinant fragments as solid-phase ligands.
Compared with patients with PTU-induced MPO-ANCA but without clinical vasculitis, sera from PTU-induced AAV patients showed significantly higher reactivity against the H1 fragment of MPO (optical density values: 0.17 (0.10 to 0.35) versus 0.10 (0.04 to 0.21), P = 0.038) and could recognize a significantly higher number of fragments (two (none to four) versus one (none to two), P = 0.026). Compared with sera from primary AAV patients, sera from PTU-induced AAV patients had significantly higher reactivity to the P fragment and the H4 fragment (47.1% versus 14.1% P < 0.001; 41.2% versus 14.1%, P = 0.034, respectively), and could recognize a significantly higher number of fragments (two (none to four) versus one (none to two), P = 0.013]. Among the 12 PTU-induced AAV patients with sequential samples, the number of fragments recognized in remission was significantly less than that in initial onset (two (none to four) versus none (none to 0.75), P < 0.001].
Linear epitopes of MPO molecules might be associated closely with PTU-induced AAV. In particular, the P and H4 fragments may be important epitopes in PTU-induced AAV.
PMCID: PMC3979166  PMID: 24252385
4.  High-Mobility Group Box-1 Protein (HMGB1) Is Increased in Antineutrophilic Cytoplasmatic Antibody (ANCA)-Associated Vasculitis with Renal Manifestations 
Molecular Medicine  2010;17(1-2):29-35.
High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear and cytosolic protein that is increasingly recognized as an important proinflammatory mediator actively secreted from monocytes and macrophages and passively released from necrotic cells. In antineutrophilic cytoplasmatic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV), the kidneys are commonly affected vital organs, characterized by focal necrotizing and/or crescentic pauci-immune glomerulonephritis. The aim of the study was to determine whether HMGB1 serum levels are elevated in AAV with renal manifestations. A total of 30 AAV patients (16 female and 14 male; median age 59 years, range 17–82) with Wegener granulomatosis, microscopic polyangiitis and Churg-Strauss syndrome with available renal biopsies and serum samples were included. In seven cases, serum was also obtained at rebiopsy in remission. HMGB1 was analyzed with Western blot. Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score (BVAS, version 2003), C-reactive protein (CRP), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), urinanalysis, creatinine, estimated glomerular filtration rate, sex and age were included in the analysis. Twenty-five episodes of biopsy-proven active disease with BVAS 17.9 ± 4.6 and 13 cases with inactive biopsies and BVAS 2.3 ± 3.7 (P = 0.0001) were identified. CRP, ESR, hematuria and proteinuria were significantly higher in active cases. HMGB1 was significantly elevated (P = 0.01) comparing active with inactive cases (120 ± 48 versus 78 ± 46 ng/mL) and significantly lower in the seven control patients (P = 0.03) at rebiopsy in remission. HMGB1 remained higher in inactive cases compared with historic healthy controls (10.9 ± 10.5 ng/mL). HMGB1 levels did not differ significantly between AAV subgroups. CRP and ESR did not correlate with HMGB1. HMGB1 is significantly increased in AAV with renal involvement. Residual HMGB1 elevation in remission could possibly reflect low-grade inflammatory activity or tissue damage. Future studies may further reveal whether HMGB1 is useful as a marker of disease activity and a predictor of outcome in AAV.
PMCID: PMC3022976  PMID: 20844833
5.  The interaction between C5a and sphingosine-1-phosphate in neutrophils for antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody mediated activation 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(4):R142.
C5a plays an crucial role in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-mediated neutrophil recruitment and activation. The current study further investigated the interaction between C5a and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) in neutrophils for ANCA-mediated activation.
The plasma levels of S1P from 29 patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) in active stage and in remission were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The generation of S1P was tested in C5a-triggered neutrophils. The effect S1P receptor antagonist was tested on respiratory burst and degranulation of C5a-primed neutrophils activated with ANCA.
The plasma level of circulating S1P was significantly higher in patients with AAV with active disease compared with patients in remission (2034.2 ± 438.5 versus 1489.3 ± 547.4 nmol/L, P < 0.001). S1P can prime neutrophils for ANCA-induced respiratory burst and degranulation. Compared with non-triggered neutrophils, the mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) value for CD88 expression was up-regulated significantly in S1P-triggered neutrophils. S1P receptor antagonist decreased oxygen radical production in C5a primed neutrophils induced by ANCA-positive IgG from patients. Blocking S1P inhibited C5a-primed neutrophil migration.
S1P triggered by C5a-primed neutrophils could further activate neutrophils. Blocking S1P could attenuate C5a-induced activation of neutrophils by ANCA. The interaction between S1P and C5a plays an important role in neutrophils for ANCA-mediated activation.
PMCID: PMC4227110  PMID: 25000985
6.  Increased Expression of Toll-Like Receptors by Monocytes and Natural Killer Cells in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24315.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of receptors that sense pathogen associated patterns such as bacterial cell wall proteins. Bacterial infections are associated with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV). Here, we assessed the expression of TLRs 2, 4, and 9 by peripheral blood leukocytes from patients with AAV, and investigated TLR mediated responses ex vivo.
Expression of TLRs was determined in 38 AAV patients (32 remission, 6 active disease), and 20 healthy controls (HC). Membrane expression of TLRs 2, 4, and 9, and intracellular expression of TLR9 by B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, NK cells, monocytes and granulocytes was assessed using 9-color flowcytometry. Whole blood from 13 patients and 7 HC was stimulated ex vivo with TLR 2, 4 and 9 ligands and production of cytokines was analyzed.
In patients, we observed increased proportions of TLR expressing NK cells. Furthermore, patient monocytes expressed higher levels of TLR2 compared to HC, and in a subset of patients an increased proportion of TLR4+ monocytes was observed. Monocytes from nasal carriers of Staphylococcus aureus expressed increased levels of intracellular TLR9. Membrane expression of TLRs by B lymphocytes, T lymphocytes, and granulocytes was comparable between AAV patients and HC. Patients with active disease did not show differential TLR expression compared to patients in remission. Ex vivo responses to TLR ligands did not differ significantly between patients and HC.
In AAV, monocytes and NK cells display increased TLR expression. Increased TLR expression by these leukocytes, probably resulting from increased activation, could play a role in disease (re)activation.
PMCID: PMC3167839  PMID: 21915309
7.  Is serum HMGB1 a biomarker in ANCA-associated vasculitis? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R104.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitides (AAV) are systemic inflammatory disorders that include granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), Churg-Strauss syndrome and renal limited vasculitis (RLV). Extracellular high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) acts as an alarmin and has been shown to be a biomarker of disease activity as well as an autoantigen in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and, possibly, in AAV. This study aims to assess antibodies against HMGB1 and HMGB1 levels as biomarkers for AAV disease activity and predictors of relapsing disease.
AAV patients with active disease and healthy controls (HC) were evaluated for anti-HMGB1 antibodies while serum HMGB1 levels were measured longitudinally in AAV patients at presentation, during remission, prior to and at relapses.
HMGB1 levels were similar between AAV patients at presentation (n = 52) and HC (n = 35) (2.64 ± 1.80 ng/ml vs. 2.39 ± 1.09 ng/ml; P = 0.422) and no difference regarding HMGB1 levels could be found among AAV disease subsets (GPA: 2.66 ± 1.83 ng/ml vs. MPA: 3.11 ± 1.91 ng/ml vs. RLV: 1.92 ± 1.48 ng/ml; P = 0.369). AAV patients with renal involvement had lower HMGB1 levels than patients without renal involvement at presentation (2.35 ± 1.48 ng/ml vs. 3.52 ± 2.41 ng/ml; P = 0.042). A negative correlation was observed between HMGB1 levels and 24-hour proteinuria (ρ = -0.361, P = 0.028). Forty-nine AAV patients were evaluated for HMGB1 levels during follow-up and no differences were observed between relapsing and nonrelapsing patients (P = 0.350). No significant increase in HMGB1 levels was observed prior to a relapse compared with the remission period and changes in HMGB1 levels were not associated with an increased risk for relapse in AAV. Positivity for anti-HMGB1 antibodies was low in patients with active AAV (three out of 24 patients).
Serum HMGB1 levels at presentation are not increased and are lower in patients with renal involvement. Relapses are not preceded or accompanied by significant rises in HMGB1 levels and changes in HMGB1 levels are not related to ensuing relapses. Anti-HMGB1 antibodies are present in only a few patients in AAV. In contrast to SLE, HMGB1 is not a useful biomarker in AAV.
PMCID: PMC3978820  PMID: 24007972
8.  Decreased Numbers of Blood Dendritic Cells and Defective Function of Regulatory T Cells in Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e18734.
Dendritic cells (DC) and regulatory cells (Treg) play pivotal roles in controlling both normal and autoimmune adaptive immune responses. DC are the main antigen-presenting cells to T cells, and they also control Treg functions. In this study, we examined the frequency and phenotype of DC subsets, and the frequency and function of Treg from patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV).
Methodology/Principal Findings
Blood samples from 19 untreated patients with AAV during flares and before any immunosuppressive treatment were analyzed, along with 15 AAV patients in remission and 18 age-matched healthy controls. DC and Treg numbers, and phenotypes were assessed by flow cytometry, and in vitro suppressive function of Treg was determined by co-culture assay. When compared to healthy volunteers, absolute numbers of conventional and plasmacytoid DC were decreased in AAV patients. During the acute phase this decrease was significantly more pronounced and was associated with an increased DC expression of CD62L. Absolute numbers of Treg (CD4+CD25highCD127low/− Tcells) were moderately decreased in patients. FOXP3 and CD39 were expressed at similar levels on Treg from patients as compared to controls. The suppressive function of Treg from AAV patients was dramatically decreased as compared to controls, and this defect was more pronounced during flares than remission. This Treg functional deficiency occurred in the absence of obvious Th17 deviation.
In conclusion, these data show that AAV flares are associated with both a decrease number and altered phenotype of circulating DC and point to a role for Treg functional deficiency in the pathogenesis of AAV.
PMCID: PMC3073002  PMID: 21494636
9.  Circulating Angiopoietin-2 as a Biomarker in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30197.
The endothelial-specific Angiopoietin-Tie2 ligand-receptor system is an important regulator of endothelial activation. Binding of angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) to Tie2 receptor renders the endothelial barrier responsive to pro-inflammatory cytokines. We previously showed that circulating Ang-2 correlated with disease severity in a small cohort of critically ill patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated glomerulonephritis. The current study reassessed Ang-2 as a biomarker of disease activity and relapse in AAV. Circulating Ang-2 was measured in 162 patients with severe AAV (BVAS/WG≥3, with or without glomerulonephritis) in a clinical trial. Ang-2 levels during active AAV were compared to levels in the same patients during remission (BVAS/WG = 0). Levels in clinical subsets of AAV were compared, and association with future disease course was assessed. Ang-2 levels were elevated in severe disease (median 3.0 ng/ml, interquartile range 1.9–4.4) compared to healthy controls (1.2, 0.9–1.5). However, they did not reliably decline with successful treatment (median 2.6 ng/ml, interquartile range 1.9–3.8, median change −0.1). Ang-2 correlated weakly with BVAS/WG score (r = 0.17), moderately with markers of systemic inflammation (r = 0.25–0.41), and inversely with renal function (r = −0.36). Levels were higher in patients with glomerulonephritis, but levels adjusted for renal dysfunction were no different in patients with or without glomerulonephritis. Levels were higher in patients with newly diagnosed AAV and lower in patients in whom treatment had recently been started. Ang-2 levels during active disease did not predict response to treatment, and Ang-2 levels in remission did not predict time to flare. Thus, Ang-2 appears to have limited practical value in AAV as a biomarker of disease activity at time of measurement or for predicting future activity.
PMCID: PMC3261176  PMID: 22279570
10.  Androgen deficiency in male patients diagnosed with ANCA-associated vasculitis: a cause of fatigue and reduced health-related quality of life? 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R117.
Low testosterone levels in men are associated with fatigue, limited physical performance and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQOL); however, this relationship has never been assessed in patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) -associated vasculitides (AAV). The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of androgen deficiency and to investigate the role of testosterone in fatigue, limited physical condition and reduced HRQOL in men with AAV.
Male patients with AAV in remission were included in this study. Fatigue and HRQOL were assessed by the multi-dimensional fatigue inventory (MFI)-20 and RAND-36 questionnaires.
Seventy male patients with a mean age of 59 years (SD 12) were included. Scores of almost all subscales of both questionnaires were significantly worse in patients compared to controls. Mean total testosterone and free testosterone levels were 13.8 nmol/L (SD 5.6) and 256 pmol/L (SD 102), respectively. Androgen deficiency (defined according to Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guidelines) was present in 47% of patients. Scores in the subscales of general health perception, physical functioning and reduced activity were significantly worse in patients with androgen deficiency compared to patients with normal androgen levels. Testosterone and age were predictors for the RAND-36 physical component summary in multiple linear regression analysis. Testosterone, age, vasculitis damage index (VDI) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were associated with the MFI-20 subscale of general fatigue.
This study showed that androgen deficiency was present in a substantial number of patients with AAV. Testosterone was one of the predictors for physical functioning and fatigue. Testosterone may play a role in fatigue, reduced physical performance and HRQOL in male patients with AAV.
PMCID: PMC3979147  PMID: 24028544
Fatigue; health-related quality of life (HRQOL); physical functioning; testosterone; androgen deficiency; ANCA-associated vasculitis
11.  Coagulation and Fibrinolysis Index Profile in Patients with ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97843.
Previous studies observed the high prevalence of venous thromboembolism in patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV). The current study analyzed the coagulation and fibrinolysis index profile in AAV patients.
The current study recruited 321 AAV patients in active stage and 78 AAV patients in quiescent stage. Coagulation and fibrinolysis index profiles in these AAV patients were analysed, and their associations with various clinical and pathological parameters were further investigated.
The circulating levels of D-dimer, fibrin degradation products and platelet count were significantly higher in AAV patients in active stage compared with those in remission [0.8 (0.4, 1.5) mg/L vs. 0.28 (0.2, 0.55) mg/L, P<0.05; 5.6 (5.0, 10.0) mg/L vs. 1.9 (1.2, 2.8) mg/L, P<0.05; 269±127×109/L vs. 227±80×109/L, P<0.05, respectively]. Among the 321 AAV patients in active stage, compared with patients with normal levels of D-dimer, patients with elevated D-dimer levels had significantly higher levels of initial serum creatinine, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C reactive protein and the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Scores (P = 0.014, P<0.001, P<0.001, P = 0.002, respectively). Moreover, correlation analysis showed that the levels of D-dimer correlated with erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C reactive protein levels (r = 0.384, P<0.001; r = 0.380, P<0.001, respectively).
Patients with active AAV are in hypercoagulable states, and circulating levels of D-dimer are associated with disease activity of AAV.
PMCID: PMC4026389  PMID: 24842719
12.  Classification and characteristics of Japanese patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis in a nationwide, prospective, inception cohort study 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(2):R101.
We investigated the clinical and serological features of patients with antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) in Japan using data from a nationwide, prospective, inception cohort study.
In total, 156 Japanese patients with newly diagnosed AAV were classified according to the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) algorithm with exploratory surrogate markers for AAV-related non-granulomatous pulmonary lesions, predefined as alveolar haemorrhage and interstitial lung disease (ILD), and their clinical and serological features were evaluated.
Using the EMEA algorithm, we identified 14 patients (9.0%) with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), 33 (21.2%) with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), 78 (50.0%) with microscopic polyangiitis and renal-limited vasculitis (MPA/RLV), and 31 (19.9%) with unclassifiable vasculitis. The average ages of patients with EGPA (male/female, 5/9), GPA (12/21), and MPA/RLV (35/43) and unclassifiable (9/22) were 58.0, 63.6, 71.1, and 70.6 years, respectively. Myeloperoxidase (MPO)-ANCA and proteinase-3 ANCA positivity was 50.0% and 0% for EGPA, 54.6% and 45.5% for GPA, 97.4% and 2.6% for MPA/RLV, and 93.5% and 3.2% for unclassifiable, respectively. According to the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score (BVAS), cutaneous (71.4%) and nervous system (92.9%) manifestations were prominent in EGPA and ear, nose, and throat manifestations (84.9%) and chest manifestations (66.7%) in GPA. Renal manifestations developed frequently in MPA/RLV (91.0%) and GPA (63.6%). The average serum creatinine levels were 0.71 mg/dL for EGPA, 1.51 mg/dL for GPA, 2.46 mg/dL for MPA/RLV, and 0.69 mg/dL for unclassifiable. The percentages of patients with ILD were 14.3% for EGPA, 9.0% for GPA, 47.4% for MPA/RLV, and 61.3% for unclassifiable. Patients with ILD (n = 61) had significantly lower BVAS (P = 0.019) with fewer ear, nose, and throat and cardiovascular manifestations than patients without ILD (n = 95).
MPO-ANCA-positive MPA/RLV is the most common form of AAV in Japanese patients, and one-half of patients with GPA were positive for MPO-ANCA. ILD is an important clinical manifestation in Japanese patients with AAV. Unclassifiable vasculitis with MPO-ANCA positivity and ILD may represent a novel variant of MPA.
Trial Registration
The University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry: UMIN000001648. Registered 28 February 2009.
PMCID: PMC4060546  PMID: 24758294
13.  Decreased CXCR1 and CXCR2 expression on neutrophils in anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody-associated vasculitides potentially increases neutrophil adhesion and impairs migration 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(6):R201.
In anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitides (AAV), persistent inflammation within the vessel wall suggests perturbed neutrophil trafficking leading to accumulation of activated neutrophils in the microvascular compartment. CXCR1 and CXCR2, being major chemokine receptors on neutrophils, are largely responsible for neutrophil recruitment. We speculate that down-regulated expression of CXCR1/2 retains neutrophils within the vessel wall and, consequently, leads to vessel damage.
Membrane expression of CXCR1/2 on neutrophils was assessed by flow cytometry. Serum levels of interleukin-8 (IL-8), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), angiopoietin 1 and angiopoietin 2 from quiescent and active AAV patients and healthy controls (HC) were quantified by ELISA. Adhesion and transendothelial migration of isolated neutrophils were analyzed using adhesion assays and Transwell systems, respectively.
Expression of CXCR1 and CXCR2 on neutrophils was significantly decreased in AAV patients compared to HC. Levels of IL-8, which, as TNFα, dose-dependently down-regulated CXCR1 and CXCR2 expression on neutrophils in vitro, were significantly increased in the serum of patients with active AAV and correlated negatively with CXCR1/CXCR2 expression on neutrophils, even in quiescent patients. Blocking CXCR1 and CXCR2 with repertaxin increased neutrophil adhesion and inhibited migration through a glomerular endothelial cell layer.
Expression of CXCR1 and CXCR2 is decreased in AAV, potentially induced by circulating proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-8. Down-regulation of these chemokine receptors could increase neutrophil adhesion and impair its migration through the glomerular endothelium, contributing to neutrophil accumulation and, in concert with ANCA, persistent inflammation within the vessel wall.
PMCID: PMC3334654  PMID: 22152684
14.  Standardised assessment of membrane proteinase 3 expression. Analysis in ANCA‐associated vasculitis and controls 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(10):1350-1355.
Increased numbers of neutrophils expressing proteinase 3 on their membrane (mPR3) have been reported in anti‐neutrophil cytoplasm antibody (ANCA)‐associated vasculitis (AAV) and are suggested to be involved in AAV immunopathogenesis. In most studies, neutrophils were analysed for mPR3 expression without priming with TNFα, suggesting that mPR3 expression on neutrophils is dependent on other priming events, such as isolation procedures . These priming events can be variable. Therefore, we analysed mPR3 expression on neutrophils before and after priming with TNFα to assess whether standardised assessment of mPR3 expression requires priming. Using neutrophils before and after priming with TNFα, we assessed percentages of mPR3+ neutrophils in patients with AAV and in disease and healthy controls.
Neutrophils from patients with PR3‐AAV and MPO‐AAV, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and from healthy controls were analysed before and after priming with TNFα for mPR3 expression.
42% of all individuals analysed showed minimal expression for mPR3 on all neutrophils before priming with TNFα, whereas after priming a clear mPR3+ subset was observed next to mPR3– neutrophils, corresponding to bimodal mPR3 expression. In patients with PR3‐AAV or MPO‐AAV, the percentage of mPR3+ neutrophils after priming with TNFα was significantly increased (p<0.01 and p<0.05, respectively) compared with healthy controls. Percentages of mPR3+ PMN were also increased in patients with SLE (p<0.01) but not in RA.
Standardised assessment of proteinase 3 on the membrane of neutrophils requires priming with TNFα. Percentages of mPR3+ PMN are increased in AAV and SLE, but not in RA.
PMCID: PMC1994314  PMID: 17446240
proteinase 3; Wegener's granulomatosis; systemic lupus erythematosus; vasculitis; chronic inflammation
15.  Immunomodulation with eicosapentaenoic acid supports the treatment of autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:6406.
Small-vessel vasculitis is a life-threatening autoimmune disease that is frequently associated with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs). Conventional immunotherapy including steroids and cyclophosphamide can cause serious adverse events, limiting the efficacy and safety of treatment. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a key component of fish oil, is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid widely known to be cardioprotective and beneficial for vascular function. We report two elderly patients with systemic ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) in whom the administration of EPA in concert with steroids safely induced and maintained remission, without the use of additioal immunosuppressants. To explore the mechanisms by which EPA enhances the treatment of AAV, we employed SCG/Kj mice as a spontaneous murine model of AAV. Dietary enrichment with EPA significantly delayed the onset of crescentic glomerulonephritis and prolonged the overall survival. EPA-derived anti-inflammatory lipid mediators and their precursors were present in the kidney, plasma, spleen, and lungs in the EPA-treated mice. Furthermore, a decrease in ANCA production and CD4/CD8-double negative T cells, and an increase in Foxp3+ regulatory T cells in the lymph nodes of the kidney were observed in the EPA-treated mice. These clinical and experimental observations suggest that EPA can safely support and augment conventional therapy for treating autoimmune small-vessel vasculitis.
PMCID: PMC4166948  PMID: 25230773
16.  Abnormal Expression Pattern of the IL-2 Receptor β-Chain on CD4+ T Cells in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
Disease Markers  2014;2014:249846.
Background/Aim. ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) is a small-vessel vasculitis of autoimmune origin. In addition to autoantibodies, T cells have a pivotal pathophysiological role in this disease. T-cell homeostasis and immune tolerance critically depend on IL-2 and its receptor expressed by T cells. In this study, we investigated the IL-2 receptor (IL-2r) expression on CD4+ T cells in AAV. Methods. Thirty patients with AAV and 15 age-matched healthy controls (HC) were enrolled. T cells from peripheral blood were analysed by flow cytometry for expression of the IL-2r α- and β-chain. Results. The IL-2r α-chain was overexpressed in AAV as compared to HC (36 ± 16% versus 20 ± 9%, P < 0.005). The IL-2r-β-chain expression was significantly reduced on CD25+ CD4+ T-cells and CD4+CD25+FoxP3pos regulatory T-cells (Tregs; AAV versus HC: 48 ± 14% versus 62 ± 9%, P = 0.002 and 38 ± 18% versus 68 ± 5%, P = 0.002). Low β-chain expression in AAV was associated with relapsing disease and systemic vasculitis with renal involvement. Conclusion. The IL-2r expression pattern is abnormal in AAV. To our knowledge, we are the first to show that the β-chain expression is drastically diminished on T cells in AAV and related to a less favorable disease course. Given the indispensable function of the β-chain in IL-2 signaling of T cells, diminished expression may contribute to disturbed immune homeostasis in AAV.
PMCID: PMC3933302  PMID: 24648606
17.  Epitope Analysis of Anti-Myeloperoxidase Antibodies in Patients with ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60530.
Increasing evidences have suggested the pathogenic role of anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) directing myeloperoxidase (MPO) in ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). The current study aimed to analyze the association between the linear epitopes of MPO-ANCA and clinicopathological features of patients with AAV.
Six recombinant linear fragments, covering the whole length amino acid sequence of a single chain of MPO, were produced from E.coli. Sera from 77 patients with AAV were collected at presentation. 13 out of the 77 patients had co-existence of serum anti-GBM antibodies. Ten patients also had sequential sera during follow up. The epitope specificities were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using the recombinant fragments as solid phase ligands.
Sera from 45 of the 77 (58.4%) patients with AAV showed a positive reaction to one or more linear fragments of the MPO chain. The Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Scores and the sera creatinine were significantly higher in patients with positive binding to the light chain fragment than that in patients without the binding. The epitopes recognized by MPO-ANCA from patients with co-existence of serum anti-GBM antibodies were mainly located in the N-terminus of the heavy chain. In 5 out of the 6 patients, whose sera in relapse recognize linear fragments, the reactivity to linear fragments in relapse was similar to that of initial onset.
The epitope specificities of MPO-ANCA were associated with disease activity and some clinicopathological features in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis.
PMCID: PMC3618278  PMID: 23577119
18.  Different tropism of adenoviruses and adeno-associated viruses to corneal cells: implications for corneal gene therapy 
Molecular Vision  2008;14:2087-2096.
Diseased corneas are potential targets for viral-based gene therapy to normalize (stimulate or inhibit) the expression of specific proteins. The choice of viral vectors is important to achieve optimal effect. The purpose of this study was to compare the tropism to different corneal cells of recombinant adenovirus (rAV) and recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) constructs using live rabbit and organ-cultured human corneas.
rAV constructs harbored the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene under the control of major immediate early cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. rAAV constructs from virus serotypes 1, 2 5, 7, and 8 had GFP under the chicken β-actin promoter and CMV enhancer. For organ culture, 16 healthy and diabetic postmortem human corneas were used. Five or fifteen μl rAV at 107 plaque forming units per 1 μl were added for 2 days to culture medium of uninjured corneas that were further cultured for 5–32 days. rAAV were added at 1.2–7.8×1010 vector genomes per cornea for 3 days to each cornea; the culture then continued for another 14–23 days. Corneal cryostat sections were examined by immunohistochemistry. Live rabbit corneas were used following excimer laser ablation of the corneal epithelium with preservation of the basal cell layer. Equal numbers of rAAV particles (2x1011 vector genomes) were applied to the cornea for 10 min. After seven days to allow for corneal healing and gene expression the animals were euthanized, the corneas were excised, and sections analyzed by immunohistochemistry.
By direct fluorescence microscopy of live organ-cultured human corneas GFP signal after rAV transduction was strong in the epithelium with dose-dependent intensity. On corneal sections, GFP was seen in all epithelial layers and some endothelial cells but most keratocytes were negative. In rAAV-transduced organ-cultured human corneas GFP signal could only be detected with anti-GFP antibody immunohistochemistry. GFP was observed in the epithelium, keratocytes, and endothelium, with more pronounced basal epithelial cell staining with rAAV1 than with other serotypes. No difference in the GFP expression patterns or levels between normal and diabetic corneas was noted. The rabbit corneas showed very similar patterns of GFP distribution to human corneas. With all rAAV serotype vectors, GFP staining in the epithelium was significantly (p=0.007) higher than the background staining in non-transduced corneas, with a trend for rAAV1 and rAAV8 to produce higher staining intensities than for rAAV2, rAAV5 (p=0.03; rAAV5 versus rAAV1), and rAAV7. rAAV serotype vectors also transduced stromal and endothelial cells in rabbit corneas to a different extent.
rAAV appears to reach many more corneal cells than rAV, especially keratocytes, although GFP expression levels were lower compared to rAV. rAV may be more useful than rAAV for gene therapy applications requiring high protein expression levels, but rAAV may be superior for keratocyte targeting.
PMCID: PMC2584774  PMID: 19023450
19.  CD45RC Isoform Expression Identifies Functionally Distinct T Cell Subsets Differentially Distributed between Healthy Individuals and AAV Patients 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5287.
In animal models of anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV), the proportion of CD45RC T cell subsets is important for disease susceptibility. Their human counterparts are, however, functionally ill defined. In this report, we studied their distribution in healthy controls (HC), AAV patients and in Systemic lupus erythematous (SLE) patients as disease controls. We showed that CD45RC expression level on human CD4 and CD8 T cells identifies subsets that are highly variable among individuals. Interestingly, AAV patients exhibit an increased proportion of CD45RClow CD4 T cells as compared to HC and SLE patients. This increase is stable over time and independent of AAV subtype, ANCA specificity, disease duration, or number of relapses. We also analyzed the cytokine profile of purified CD4 and CD8 CD45RC T cell subsets from HC, after stimulation with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 mAbs. The CD45RC subsets exhibit different cytokine profiles. Type-1 cytokines (IL-2, IFN-γ and TNF-α) were produced by all CD45RC T cell subsets, while the production of IL-17, type-2 (IL-4, IL-5) and regulatory (IL-10) cytokines was restricted to the CD45RClow subset. In conclusion, we have shown that CD45RC expression divides human T cells in functionally distinct subsets that are imbalanced in AAV. Since this imbalance is stable over time and independent of several disease parameters, we hypothesize that this is a pre-existing immune abnormality involved in the etiology of AAV.
PMCID: PMC2668071  PMID: 19381293
20.  Renal Transplantation in Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody-Associated Vasculitis: A Multicenter Experience 
Transplantation  2011;91(12):1370-1375.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) is a common cause of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis resulting in end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The optimal timing of kidney transplantation (KTX) for ESRD as a result of AAV and the risk of AAV relapse after KTX are not well defined. We report our experience with AAV patients who underwent KTX at our institutions between 1996 and 2010. Median follow-up was 64 months.
Retrospective multicenter cohort study.
Eighty-five patients (45 men/40 women; mean age 49 years) received a KTX for ESRD secondary to microscopic polyangiitis (n=43) or Wegener’s granulomatosis (n=42). Twenty-four patients underwent preemptive KTX and 69 received a living-donor KTX. All patients were in remission at the time of KTX. Fifty-eight patients received induction therapy. In 64 patients, maintenance immunosuppression was with prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil, and tacrolimus. At the time of KTX, 29 patients were ANCA-positive. The vasculitis relapse rate was 0.02 per patient-years and was not influenced by disease category, ANCA subtype, or remission duration before KTX. There were 23 rejection episodes in 13 patients with seven graft losses. Median serum creatinine at 1 year was 1.3 mg/dL in 75 patients with more than 1 year follow-up and 1.4 mg/dL at last follow-up. The graft and patient survival rates were 100% at 1 year, 97.9% and 93.4% at 5 years, and 79.0% and 67.4% at 10 years, respectively.
KTX is a safe and an effective option for treating ESRD secondary to AAV. Relapses are rare with current immunosuppression.
PMCID: PMC4096966  PMID: 21508899
ANCA vasculitis; Kidney transplantation; Immunosuppression; Outcomes
21.  The recombinant adeno-associated virus vector (rAAV2)-mediated apolipoprotein B mRNA-specific hammerhead ribozyme: a self-complementary AAV2 vector improves the gene expression 
In humans, overproduction of apolipoprotein B (apoB) is positively associated with premature coronary artery diseases. To reduce the levels of apoB mRNA, we have designed an apoB mRNA-specific hammerhead ribozyme targeted at nucleotide sequences GUA6679 (RB15) mediated by adenovirus, which efficiently cleaves and decreases apoB mRNA by 80% in mouse liver and attenuates the hyperlipidemic condition. In the current study, we used an adeno-associated virus vector, serotype 2 (AAV2) and a self-complementary AAV2 vector (scAAV2) to demonstrate the effect of long-term tissue-specific gene expression of RB15 on the regulation apoB mRNA in vivo.
We constructed a hammerhead ribozyme RB15 driven by a liver-specific transthyretin (TTR) promoter using an AAV2 vector (rAAV2-TTR-RB15). HepG2 cells and hyperlipidemic mice deficient in both the low density lipoprotein receptor and the apoB mRNA editing enzyme genes (LDLR-/-Apobec1-/-; LDb) were transduced with rAAV2-TTR-RB15 and a control vector rAAV-TTR-RB15-mutant (inactive ribozyme). The effects of ribozyme RB15 on apoB metabolism and atherosclerosis development were determined in LDb mice at 5-month after transduction. A self-complementary AAV2 vector expressing ribozyme RB15 (scAAV2-TTR-RB15) was also engineered and used to transduce HepG2 cells. Studies were designed to compare the gene expression efficiency between rAAV2-TTR-RB15 and scAAV2-TTR-RB15.
The effect of ribozyme RB15 RNA on reducing apoB mRNA levels in HepG2 cells was observed only on day-7 after rAAV2-TTR-RB15 transduction. And, at 5-month after rAAV2-TTR-RB15 treatment, the apoB mRNA levels in LDb mice were significantly decreased by 43%, compared to LDb mice treated with control vector rAAV2-TTR-RB15-mutant. Moreover, both the rAAV2-TTR-RB15 viral DNA and ribozyme RB15 RNA were still detectable in mice livers at 5-month after treatment. However, this rAAV2-TTR-RB15 vector mediated a prolonged but low level of ribozyme RB15 gene expression in the mice livers, which did not produce the therapeutic effects on alteration the lipid levels or the inhibition of atherosclerosis development. In contrast, the ribozyme RB15 RNA mediated by scAAV2-TTR-RB15 vector was expressed immediately at day-1 after transduction in HepG2 cells. The apoB mRNA levels were decreased 47% (p = 0.001), compared to the control vector scAAV2-TTR-RB15-mutant.
This study provided evidence that the rAAV2 single-strand vector mediated a prolonged but not efficient transduction in mouse liver. However, the scAAV2 double-strand vector mediated a rapid and efficient gene expression in liver cells. This strategy using scAAV2 vectors represents a better approach to express small molecules such as ribozyme.
PMCID: PMC436067  PMID: 15193153
gene therapy; adeno-associated virus vector; self-complementary AAV vector; hammerhead ribozyme; apolipoprotein B; liver-specific gene expression
22.  Automatic Reading of ANCA-Slides: Evaluation of the AKLIDES System 
The ANCA consensus prescribes screening by indirect immunofluorescence on neutrophils. We evaluated the first automated ANCA-pattern recognition system. C-ANCA (n = 39) and P-ANCA (n = 40) samples were selected from patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). Non-AAV controls included sera from healthy controls (n = 40), sera with possible interfering antibodies (n = 46), or miscellaneous ANCA reactivity (n = 31). ANCA slides were analysed by AKLIDES and routine fluorescence microscopy. The C-ANCA pattern was recognized by routine microscopy in 92% and 97% on ethanol- and formalin-fixed slides, respectively. AKLIDES reported C-ANCA in 74% and 95%, respectively. P-ANCA was recognized by routine microscopy on ethanol-fixed neutrophils in 90%, while AKLIDES reported P-ANCA in 80%. Typically, only 65% and 33% of these samples showed the expected C-ANCA on formalin-fixed neutrophils by routine microscopy and AKLIDES, respectively. A C- or P-ANCA pattern was observed on ethanol-fixed neutrophils in 28% and 23% of the controls by routine microscopy and AKLIDES, respectively. Only 5% of the controls revealed C-ANCA on formalin-fixed neutrophils by routine microscopy and AKLIDES. Altogether, automated ANCA-pattern recognition by AKLIDES is promising. Distinction of C- and P-ANCA is good, but sensitivity on ethanol-fixed neutrophils needs improvement. When optimized, pattern recognition software may play an important role in AAV diagnostics.
PMCID: PMC3501831  PMID: 23193419
23.  Complement in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis 
Seminars in nephrology  2013;33(6):557-564.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA) are the likely cause for necrotizing small vessel vasculitis and crescentic glomerulonephritis. Unlike other forms of crescentic glomerulonephritis induced by immune complexes or anti-glomerular basement membrane (anti-GBM) antibodies that have conspicuous vessel wall immunoglobulin and complement, there is a paucity, although usually not an absence, of vessel wall immunoglobulin and complement in ANCA-associated glomerulonephritis. In spite of this comparatively lower level and more localized distribution of vessel wall complement, experimental and clinical observations strongly incriminate alternative complement pathway activation as critically important in the pathogenesis of ANCA disease. Experimental data in animal models and in vitro experiments demonstrate that primed neutrophils are activated by ANCA, which generates C5a that engages C5a receptors on neutrophils. This attracts and in turn primes more neutrophils for activation by ANCA. In patients with ANCA disease, plasma levels of C3a, C5a, soluble C5b-9 and Bb have been reported to be higher in active disease than in remission, whereas no difference was reported in plasma C4d in active versus remission ANCA disease. Thus, experimental and clinical data support the hypothesis that ANCA-induced neutrophil activation activates the alternative complement pathway and generates C5a. C5a not only recruits additional neutrophils through chemotaxis but also primes neutrophils for activation by ANCA. This creates a self-fueling inflammatory amplification loop that results in the extremely destructive necrotizing vascular injury.
PMCID: PMC4083854  PMID: 24161040
24.  Influence of variable domain glycosylation on anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies and anti-glomerular basement membrane autoantibodies 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:10.
The pathophysiological significance of variable region glycosylation of autoantibodies is still unclear. In the current study, the influence of the variable region N-linked oligosaccharides on the reactivity of three autoantibody specificities was investigated with Sambucus nigra agglutinin (SNA), which mainly binds to oligosaccharides with terminal α2, 6-linked sialic acid on the variable region of IgG.
Twenty-seven patients with serum positive anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA) against myeploperoxidase (MPO) or proteinase 3 (PR3), or autoantibodies against glomerular basement membrane (GBM) were included. Total IgG was isolated and separated into non-SNA-binding and SNA-binding fractions with SNA affinity chromatography. Antigen-specific IgG was purified by immunoaffinity chromatography.
At the same concentration of IgG, the antigen binding level of non-SNA-binding IgG was significantly lower than that of SNA-binding IgG for MPO-ANCA (absorbance value at 405 nm, 0.572 ± 0.590 vs. 0.962 ± 0.670, P < 0.001) and for PR3-ANCA (0.362 ± 0.530 vs. 0.560 ± 0.531, P = 0.003). The antigen binding level of non-SNA-binding IgG was significantly higher than that of SNA-binding IgG for anti-GBM antibodies (1.301 ± 0.594 vs. 1.172 ± 0.583, P = 0.044). The level of variable region glycosylation of total IgG was significantly lower than that of affinity-purified MPO-ANCA (1.021 ± 0.201 vs. 1.434 ± 0.134, P = 0.004). The level of variable region glycosylation of total IgG was significantly higher than that of affinity-purified anti-GBM antibodies (1.034 ± 0.340 vs. 0.734 ± 0.333, P = 0.007). The SNA-binding fraction of MPO-ANCA-containing IgG and PR3-ANCA-containing IgG induced higher levels of neutrophil oxygen radical production than the corresponding non-SNA-binding fractions (P < 0.001 and P = 0.043, respectively). The level of variable region glycosylation of affinity-purified MPO-ANCA was higher in active AAV than the same patients in remission (P = 0.001).
Characteristics of variable region glycosylation of ANCA and anti-GBM antibodies were different from that of total IgG, which might influence the antigen-binding ability of these antibodies. Variable region glycosylation of ANCA might influence the effect of ANCA-induced neutrophils respiratory burst.
PMCID: PMC3324382  PMID: 22404873
Glycosylation; Variable region; ANCA; Anti-GBM
25.  Differential Expression of Granulopoiesis Related Genes in Neutrophil Subsets Distinguished by Membrane Expression of CD177 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99671.
Differential gene expression in CD177+ and CD177− neutrophils was investigated, in order to detect possible differences in neutrophil function which could be related to the pathogenesis of ANCA-associated Vasculitides (AAV).
Neutrophils were isolated from healthy controls (HC) with high, negative or bimodal CD177 expression, and sorted into CD177+ and CD177− subpopulations. Total RNA was screened for expression of 24,000 probes with Illumina Ref-8 Beadchips. Genes showing differential expression between CD177+ and CD177− subsets in microarray analysis were re-assessed using quantitative-PCR. CD177 expression on neutrophil precursors in bone marrow was analyzed using quantitative PCR and flowcytometry.
The proportion of CD177+ cells increased during neutrophil maturation in bone marrow. Fold change analysis of gene expression profile of sorted CD177+ and CD177− neutrophils resulted in 14 genes with fold change (fc) >3 difference in expression. Interestingly, 10 of these genes have been reported to change significantly in expression during neutrophil maturation, and most of these genes were granule protein (GP) coding genes. mRNA expression levels measured by RT-PCR of a number of these GP, and of PR3 and MPO were higher in the CD177− neutrophil subset in HC, however, particular granule protein amounts were comparable between CD177+ and CD177− neutrophil subsets. AAV patients had higher amounts of CD177+ neutrophils, but contrary to neutrophils from HC expression of GP-genes was increased, possibly due to activation.
The neutrophil population can be distinguished by membrane expression of CD177 into subsets that are different in expression of GP mRNA but not in GP protein production. GP gene expression is also elevated in AAV patients, which is not explained by skewed distribution of CD177+ and CD177− subsets but may be associated with neutrophil activation during on-going inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4057222  PMID: 24926686

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