Neutrophils have long been known to participate in acute inflammation, but a role in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases is now emerging. These cells are key players in the recognition and elimination of pathogens, but they also sense self components, including nucleic acids and products of sterile tissue damage. While this normally contributes to tissue repair, it can also lead to the release of highly immunogenic products that can trigger and/or amplify autoimmune pathogenic loops. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie neutrophil activation, migration, survival and their various forms of death in health and disease might provide us with new approaches to treat chronic inflammatory conditions.
Feedback regulatory circuits provided by regulatory T cells (Treg cells) and suppressive cytokines are an intrinsic part of the immune system, along with effector functions. Here we discuss some of the regulatory cytokines that have evolved to permit tolerance to components of self as well as the eradication of pathogens with minimal collateral damage to the host. Interleukin 2 (IL-2), IL-10 and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) are well characterized, whereas IL-27, IL-35 and IL-37 represent newcomers to the spectrum of anti-inflammatory cytokines. We also emphasize how information accumulated through in vitro as well as in vivo studies of genetically engineered mice can help in the understanding and treatment of human diseases.
About half of all subjects with common variable immune deficiency (CVID) are afflicted with inflammatory complications including hematologic autoimmunity, granulomatous infiltrations, interstitial lung disease, lymphoid hyperplasia and/or gastrointestinal inflammatory disease. The pathogenesis of these conditions is poorly understood but singly and in aggregate, these lead to significantly increased (11 fold) morbidity and mortality, not experienced by CVID subjects without these complications. To explore the dysregulated networks in these subjects, we applied whole blood transcriptional profiling to 91 CVID subjects, 47 with inflammatory conditions and 44 without, in comparison to subjects with XLA and healthy controls. As compared to other CVID subjects, males with XLA or healthy controls, the signature of CVID subjects with inflammatory complications was distinguished by a marked up-regulation of IFN responsive genes. Chronic up-regulation of IFN pathways is known to occur in autoimmune disease due to activation of TLRs and other still unclarified cytoplasmic sensors. As subjects with inflammatory complications were also more likely to be lymphopenic, have reduced B cell numbers, and a greater reduction of B, T and plasma cell networks, we suggest that more impaired adaptive immunity in these subjects may lead to chronic activation of innate IFN pathways in response to environmental antigens. The unbiased use of whole blood transcriptome analysis may provides a tool for distinguishing CVID subjects who are at risk for increased morbidity and earlier mortality. As more effective therapeutic options are developed, whole blood transcriptome analyses could also provide an efficient means of monitoring the effects of treatment of the inflammatory phenotype.
New approaches to define factors underlying the immunopathogenesis of pulmonary diseases including sarcoidosis and tuberculosis are needed to develop new treatments and biomarkers. Comparing the blood transcriptional response of tuberculosis to other similar pulmonary diseases will advance knowledge of disease pathways and help distinguish diseases with similar clinical presentations.
To determine the factors underlying the immunopathogenesis of the granulomatous diseases, sarcoidosis and tuberculosis, by comparing the blood transcriptional responses in these and other pulmonary diseases.
We compared whole blood genome-wide transcriptional profiles in pulmonary sarcoidosis, pulmonary tuberculosis, to community acquired pneumonia and primary lung cancer and healthy controls, before and after treatment, and in purified leucocyte populations.
Measurements and Main Results
An Interferon-inducible neutrophil-driven blood transcriptional signature was present in both sarcoidosis and tuberculosis, with a higher abundance and expression in tuberculosis. Heterogeneity of the sarcoidosis signature correlated significantly with disease activity. Transcriptional profiles in pneumonia and lung cancer revealed an over-abundance of inflammatory transcripts. After successful treatment the transcriptional activity in tuberculosis and pneumonia patients was significantly reduced. However the glucocorticoid-responsive sarcoidosis patients showed a significant increase in transcriptional activity. 144-blood transcripts were able to distinguish tuberculosis from other lung diseases and controls.
Tuberculosis and sarcoidosis revealed similar blood transcriptional profiles, dominated by interferon-inducible transcripts, while pneumonia and lung cancer showed distinct signatures, dominated by inflammatory genes. There were also significant differences between tuberculosis and sarcoidosis in the degree of their transcriptional activity, the heterogeneity of their profiles and their transcriptional response to treatment.
Type I interferon is a family of antiviral cytokines linked to human autoimmune diseases. In this issue of Immunity, Gall et al. (2012) characterize, in a murine model of autoimmunity, the origin and progression of the type I interferon response leading to disease.
We report the clinical description and molecular dissection of a new fatal human inherited disorder characterized by chronic auto-inflammation, invasive bacterial infections and muscular amylopectinosis. Patients from two kindreds carried biallelic loss-of-expression and loss-of-function mutations in HOIL1, a component the linear ubiquitination chain assembly complex (LUBAC). These mutations resulted in impairment of LUBAC stability. NF-κB activation in response to interleukin-1β (IL-1β) was compromised in the patients’ fibroblasts. By contrast, the patients’ mononuclear leukocytes, particularly monocytes, were hyperresponsive to IL-1β. The consequences of human HOIL-1 and LUBAC deficiencies for IL-1β responses thus differed between cell types, consistent with the unique association of auto-inflammation and immunodeficiency in these patients. These data suggest that LUBAC regulates NF-κB-dependent IL-1β responses differently in different cell types.
Macrophage production of CXCL10 amplifies the production of IL-6 by B cells, leading to plasma cell differentiation.
In tonsils, CD138+ plasma cells (PCs) are surrounded by CD163+ resident macrophages (Mϕs). We show here that human Mϕs (isolated from tonsils or generated from monocytes in vitro) drive activated B cells to differentiate into CD138+CD38++ PCs through secreted CXCL10/IP-10 and VCAM-1 contact. IP-10 production by Mϕs is induced by B cell–derived IL-6 and depends on STAT3 phosphorylation. Furthermore, IP-10 amplifies the production of IL-6 by B cells, which sustains the STAT3 signals that lead to PC differentiation. IP-10–deficient mice challenged with NP-Ficoll show a decreased frequency of NP-specific PCs and lower titers of antibodies. Thus, our results reveal a novel dialog between Mϕs and B cells, in which IP-10 acts as a PC differentiation factor.
Monocytes exposed to serum from SLE patients promote B cell differentiation to IgG and IgA plasmablasts dependent on BAFF and IL-10 or APRIL, respectively.
The development of autoantibodies is a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). SLE serum can induce monocyte differentiation into dendritic cells (DCs) in a type I IFN–dependent manner. Such SLE-DCs activate T cells, but whether they promote B cell responses is not known. In this study, we demonstrate that SLE-DCs can efficiently stimulate naive and memory B cells to differentiate into IgG- and IgA-plasmablasts (PBs) resembling those found in the blood of SLE patients. SLE-DC–mediated IgG-PB differentiation is dependent on B cell–activating factor (BAFF) and IL-10, whereas IgA-PB differentiation is dependent on a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL). Importantly, SLE-DCs express CD138 and trans-present CD138-bound APRIL to B cells, leading to the induction of IgA switching and PB differentiation in an IFN-α–independent manner. We further found that this mechanism of providing B cell help is relevant in vivo, as CD138-bound APRIL is expressed on blood monocytes from active SLE patients. Collectively, our study suggests that a direct myeloid DC–B cell interplay might contribute to the pathogenesis of SLE.
Tuberculosis (TB), caused by infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis), is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and efforts to control TB are hampered by difficulties with diagnosis, prevention and treatment 1,2. Most people infected with M. tuberculosis remain asymptomatic, termed latent TB, with a 10% lifetime risk of developing active TB disease, but current tests cannot identify which individuals will develop disease 3. The immune response to M. tuberculosis is complex and incompletely characterized, hindering development of new diagnostics, therapies and vaccines 4,5. We identified a whole blood 393 transcript signature for active TB in intermediate and high burden settings, correlating with radiological extent of disease and reverting to that of healthy controls following treatment. A subset of latent TB patients had signatures similar to those in active TB patients. We also identified a specific 86-transcript signature that discriminated active TB from other inflammatory and infectious diseases. Modular and pathway analysis revealed that the TB signature was dominated by a neutrophil-driven interferon (IFN)-inducible gene profile, consisting of both IFN-γ and Type I IFNαβ signalling. Comparison with transcriptional signatures in purified cells and flow cytometric analysis, suggest that this TB signature reflects both changes in cellular composition and altered gene expression. Although an IFN signature was also observed in whole blood of patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), their complete modular signature differed from TB with increased abundance of plasma cell transcripts. Our studies demonstrate a hitherto under-appreciated role of Type I IFNαβ signalling in TB pathogenesis, which has implications for vaccine and therapeutic development. Our study also provides a broad range of transcriptional biomarkers with potential as diagnostic and prognostic tools to combat the TB epidemic.
Globally there are approximately 9 million new active tuberculosis cases and 1.4 million deaths annually. Effective antituberculosis treatment monitoring is difficult as there are no existing biomarkers of poor adherence or inadequate treatment earlier than 2 months after treatment initiation. Inadequate treatment leads to worsening disease, disease transmission and drug resistance.
To determine if blood transcriptional signatures change in response to antituberculosis treatment and could act as early biomarkers of a successful response.
Blood transcriptional profiles of untreated active tuberculosis patients in South Africa were analysed before, during (2 weeks and 2 months), at the end of (6 months) and after (12 months) antituberculosis treatment, and compared to individuals with latent tuberculosis. An active-tuberculosis transcriptional signature and a specific treatment-response transcriptional signature were derived. The specific treatment response transcriptional signature was tested in two independent cohorts. Two quantitative scoring algorithms were applied to measure the changes in the transcriptional response. The most significantly represented pathways were determined using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis.
An active tuberculosis 664-transcript signature and a treatment specific 320-transcript signature significantly diminished after 2 weeks of treatment in all cohorts, and continued to diminish until 6 months. The transcriptional response to treatment could be individually measured in each patient.
Significant changes in the transcriptional signatures measured by blood tests were readily detectable just 2 weeks after treatment initiation. These findings suggest that blood transcriptional signatures could be used as early surrogate biomarkers of successful treatment response.
Staphylococcus aureus infections are associated with diverse clinical manifestations leading to significant morbidity and mortality. To define the role of the host response in the clinical manifestations of the disease, we characterized whole blood transcriptional profiles of children hospitalized with community-acquired S. aureus infection and phenotyped the bacterial strains isolated. The overall transcriptional response to S. aureus infection was characterized by over-expression of innate immunity and hematopoiesis related genes and under-expression of genes related to adaptive immunity. We assessed individual profiles using modular fingerprints combined with the molecular distance to health (MDTH), a numerical score of transcriptional perturbation as compared to healthy controls. We observed significant heterogeneity in the host signatures and MDTH, as they were influenced by the type of clinical presentation, the extent of bacterial dissemination, and time of blood sampling in the course of the infection, but not by the bacterial isolate. System analysis approaches provide a new understanding of disease pathogenesis and the relation/interaction between host response and clinical disease manifestations.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by a breakdown of tolerance to nuclear antigens and the development of immune complexes. Genomic approaches have shown that human SLE leukocytes homogeneously express type I interferon (IFN)–induced and neutrophil-related transcripts. Increased production and/or bioavailability of IFN-α and associated alterations in dendritic cell (DC) homeostasis have been linked to lupus pathogenesis. Although neutrophils have long been shown to be associated with lupus, their potential role in disease pathogenesis remains elusive. Here, we show that mature SLE neutrophils are primed in vivo by type I IFN and die upon exposure to SLE-derived anti-ribonucleoprotein antibodies, releasing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). SLE NETs contain DNA as well as large amounts of LL37 and HMGB1, neutrophil proteins that facilitate the uptake and recognition of mammalian DNA by plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). Indeed, SLE NETs activate pDCs to produce high levels of IFN-α in a DNA- and TLR9 (Toll-like receptor 9)–dependent manner. Our results reveal an unsuspected role for neutrophils in SLE pathogenesis and identify a novel link between nucleic acid–recognizing antibodies and type I IFN production in this disease.
IFNα is known to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the mechanisms remain unclear. We previously showed that within weeks, exposure to IFNα in vivo induces lupus in pre-autoimmune lupus-prone NZB × NZW F1 (NZB/W) but not in BALB/c mice. In the current study, we show that in vivo expression of IFNα induces sustained B cell proliferation in both BALB/c and NZB/W mice. In NZB/W but not BALB/c mice, B cell proliferation was accompanied by a rapid and unabated production of autoantibody-secreting cells (ASCs) in secondary lymphoid organs, suggesting that a B cell checkpoint is altered in the autoimmune background. The majority (>95%) of ASCs elicited in IFNα-treated NZB/W mice were short-lived and occurred without the induction of long-lived plasma cells. A short course of cyclophosphamide caused a sharp drop in IFNα-elicited short-lived plasma cells, but the levels recovered within days following termination of treatment. Thus, our work provides new insights into effectiveness and limitations of current SLE therapies.
lupus; interferon alpha; B lymphocytes; short-lived plasma cells; cyclophosphamide
Although a fraction of human blood memory CD4+ T cells expresses chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 5 (CXCR5), their relationship to T follicular helper (Tfh) cells is not well-established. Here we show that human blood CXCR5+ CD4+ T cells share functional properties with Tfh cells, and appear to represent their circulating memory compartment. Blood CXCR5+ CD4+ T cells comprised three subsets; T helper 1 (Th1), Th2 and Th17 cells. Th2 and Th17 cells within CXCR5+, but not within CXCR5−, compartment efficiently induced naïve B cells to produce immunoglobulins via interleukin-21 (IL-21). In contrast, Th1 cells from both CXCR5+ and CXCR5− compartments lacked the capacity to help B cells. Patients with juvenile dermatomyositis, a systemic autoimmune disease, displayed a profound skewing of blood CXCR5+ Th subsets towards Th2 and Th17 cells. Importantly, the skewing of subsets correlated with disease activity and frequency of blood plasmablasts. Collectively, our study suggests that an altered balance of Tfh subsets contributes to human autoimmunity.
Glucocorticoids are widely used to treat patients with autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)1,2. However, regimens used to treat many such conditions cannot maintain disease control in the majority of SLE patients and more aggressive approaches such as high-dose methylprednisolone pulse therapy are used to provide transient reductions in disease activity3,4. The primary anti-inflammatory mechanism of glucocorticoids is thought to be NF-κB inhibition5. Recognition of self nucleic acids by toll-like receptors TLR7 and TLR9 on B cells and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs) is an important step in the pathogenesis of SLE6, promoting anti-nuclear antibodies and the production of type I interferon (IFN), both correlated with the severity of disease1,7. Following their activation by self-nucleic acid-associated immune complexes, PDCs migrate to the tissues8,9. We demonstrate, in vitro and in vivo, that stimulation of PDCs through TLR7 and 9 can account for the reduced activity of glucocorticoids to inhibit the IFN pathway in SLE patients and in two lupus-prone mouse strains. The triggering of PDCs through TLR7 and 9 by nucleic acid-containing immune complexes or by synthetic ligands activates the NF-κB pathway essential for PDC survival. Glucocorticoids do not affect NF-κB activation in PDCs, preventing glucocorticoid induction of PDC death and the consequent reduction of systemic IFN-α levels. These findings unveil a new role for self nucleic acid recognition by TLRs and indicate that inhibitors of TLR7 and 9 signalling could prove to be effective corticosteroid-sparing drugs.
PAPA syndrome (Pyogenic Arthritis, Pyoderma gangrenosum, and Acne) is an autosomal dominant, hereditary auto-inflammatory disease arising from mutations in the PSTPIP1/CD2BP1 gene on chromosome 15q. These mutations produce a hyper-phosphorylated PSTPIP1 protein and alter its participation in activation of the “inflammasome” involved in interleukin-1 (IL-1β) production. Overproduction of IL-1β is a clear molecular feature of PAPA syndrome. Ongoing research is implicating other biochemical pathways that may be relevant to the distinct pyogenic inflammation of the skin and joints characteristic of this disease. This review summarizes the recent and rapidly accumulating knowledge on these molecular aspects of PAPA syndrome and related disorders.
Auto-inflammatory disease; PAPA syndrome; PSTPIP1; CD2BP1; PTP-PEST; pyrin; neutrophils; microarray transcript profiling; anakinra; IL-1β.
The past decade has seen an explosion in the use of DNA-based microarrays. These techniques permit to assess RNA abundance on a genome-wide scale. Medical applications emerged in the field of cancer, with studies of both solid tumors and hematological malignancies leading to the development of tests that are now used to personalize therapeutic options. Microarrays have also been used to analyze the blood transcriptome in a wide range of diseases. In human autoimmune diseases, these studies are showing potential for identifying therapeutic targets as well as biomarkers for diagnosis, assessment of disease activity and response to treatment. More quantitative and sensitive high throughput RNA profiling methods are starting to be available and will be necessary for transcriptome analyses to become routine tests in the clinical setting. We expect this to crystallize within the coming decade, as they become part of the personalized medicine armamentarium.
Immunity results from a complex interplay between the antigen-nonspecific innate immune system and the antigen-specific adaptive immune system. The cells and molecules of the innate system employ non-clonal recognition receptors including lectins, Toll-like receptors, NOD-like receptors and helicases. B and T lymphocytes of the adaptive immune system employ clonal receptors recognizing antigens or their derived peptides in a highly specific manner. An essential link between innate and adaptive immunity is provided by dendritic cells (DCs). DCs can induce such contrasting states as immunity and tolerance. The recent years have brought a wealth of information on the biology of DCs revealing the complexity of this cell system. Indeed, DC plasticity and subsets are prominent determinants of the type and quality of elicited immune responses. Here we summarize our recent studies aimed at a better understanding of the DC system to unravel the pathophysiology of human diseases and design novel human vaccines.
To assess the efficacy of the interleukin 1 receptor antagonist anakinra in systemic-onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA).
A multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted. The primary objective was to compare the efficacy of a 1-month treatment with anakinra (2 mg/kg subcutaneous daily, maximum 100 mg) with a placebo between two groups each with 12 patients with SJIA. Response was defined by a 30% improvement of the paediatric American College of Rheumatology criteria for JIA, resolution of systemic symptoms and a decrease of at least 50% of both C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate compared with baseline. After month 1 (M1), patients taking placebo were switched to anakinra. Secondary objectives included tolerance and efficacy assessment for 12 months, and analyses of treatment effect on blood gene expression profiling.
At M1, 8/12 responders were receiving anakinra and 1 responder receiving placebo (p=0.003). Ten patients from the placebo group switched to anakinra; nine were responders at M2. Between M1 and M12, six patients stopped treatment owing to an adverse event (n=2), lack of efficacy (n=2) or a disease flare (n=2). Blood gene expression profiling at enrolment and at 6 months' follow-up showed one set of dysregulated genes that reverted to normal values in the clinical responders and a different set, including interferon (IFN)-inducible genes, that was induced by anakinra.
Anakinra treatment is effective in SJIA, at least in the short term. It is associated with normalisation of blood gene expression profiles in clinical responders and induces a de novo IFN signature.
Trial Registration Number: NCT00339157.
Blood is the pipeline of the immune system. Assessing changes in transcript abundance in blood on a genome-wide scale affords a comprehensive view of the status of the immune system in health and disease. This review summarizes the work that has used this approach to identify therapeutic targets and biomarker signatures in the field of autoimmunity and infectious disease. Recent technological and methodological advances that will carry the blood transcriptome research field forward are also discussed.
To investigate peripheral blood (PB) cell transcript profiles of systemic sclerosis (SSc) and its subtypes in direct comparison with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We investigated PB cell samples from 74 SSc patients, 21 healthy controls, and 17 SLE patients using Illumina Human Ref-8 BeadChips and quantitative polymerase chain reaction confirmation. None of the study participants were receiving immunosuppressive agents other than low-dose steroids and hydroxychloroquine. In addition to conventional statistical and modular analysis, a composite score for the interferon (IFN)–inducible genes was calculated. Within the group of patients with SSc, the correlation of the IFN score with the serologic and clinical subtypes was investigated, as were single-nucleotide polymorphisms in a selected number of IFN pathway genes.
Many of the most prominently overexpressed genes in SSc and SLE were IFN-inducible genes. Forty-three of 47 overexpressed IFN-inducible genes in SSc (91%) were similarly altered in SLE. The IFN score was highest in the SLE patients, followed by the SSc patients, and then the controls. The difference in IFN score among all 3 groups was statistically significant (P < 0.001 for all 3 comparisons). SSc and SLE PB cell samples showed striking parallels to our previously reported SSc skin transcripts in regard to the IFN-inducible gene expression pattern. In SSc, the presence of antitopoisomerase and anti–U1 RNP antibodies and lymphopenia correlated with the higher IFN scores (P = 0.005, P = 0.001, and P = 0.004, respectively); a missense mutation in IFNAR2 was significantly associated with the IFN score.
SLE and SSc fit within the same spectrum of IFN-mediated diseases. A subset of SSc patients shows a “lupus-like” high IFN-inducible gene expression pattern that correlates with the presence of antitopoisomerase and anti–U1 RNP antibodies.
Our studies in children with rheumatic diseases have led to the identification of two of the oldest cytokines, type I Interferon (IFN) and Interleukin 1 (IL-1), as important pathogenic players in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Systemic onset Juvenile Arthritis (SoJIA) respectively. These findings were obtained by studying the transcriptional profiles of patient blood cells and by assessing the biological and transcriptional effect(s) of active patient sera on healthy blood cells. We also identified a signature which can be used to promptly diagnose SoJIA from other febrile conditions. Finally, our pilot clinical trials using IL-1 blockers have shown remarkable clinical benefits in SoJIA patients refractory to other medications.
Interleukin 1b (IL-1b) is emerging as mediator of a wide range of human diseases. Availability of IL-1 blockers that result in clinical benefits to patients with these diseases is creating a demand for biomarkers to diagnose as well as to predict and follow responses to therapy. Blood gene expression profiling can be used to identify such biomarkers. This review will summarize recent studies in the field and will discuss some of the challenges raised by the use of this technology in biomarker discovery.