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1.  Decreased catalytic function with altered sumoylation of DNA topoisomerase I in the nuclei of scleroderma fibroblasts 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(4):R128.
Introduction
Sumoylation is involved in nucleolus-nucleoplasm transport of DNA topoisomerase I (topo I), which may associate with changes of cellular and topo I functions. Skin fibroblasts of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) exhibit profibrotic cellular changes. The aims of this study were to examine the catalytic function and sumoylation of topo I in the nuclei of SSc fibroblasts, a major cell type involved in the fibrotic process.
Methods
Eleven pairs of fibroblast strains obtained from nonlesional skin biopsies of SSc patients and age/sex/ethnicity-matched normal controls were examined for catalytic function of nuclear topo I. Immunoprecipitation (IP)-Western blots were used to examine sumoylation of fibroblast topo I. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure transcript levels of SUMO1 and COL1A2 in the fibroblasts.
Results
Topo I in nuclear extracts of SSc fibroblasts generally showed a significantly lower efficiency than that of normal fibroblasts in relaxing equivalent amounts of supercoiled DNA. Increased sumoylation of topo I was clearly observed in 7 of 11 SSc fibroblast strains. Inhibition of SUMO1 with SUMO1 siRNA improved the catalytic efficiency of topo I in the SSc fibroblasts. In contrast, sumoylation of recombinant topo I proteins reduced their catalytic function.
Conclusions
The catalytic function of topo I was decreased in SSc fibroblasts, to which increased sumoylation of topo I may contribute.
doi:10.1186/ar3435
PMCID: PMC3239368  PMID: 21827649
2.  Toll-like receptor 3 upregulation by type I interferon in healthy and scleroderma dermal fibroblasts 
Introduction
Increased levels of genes in the type I interferon (IFN) pathway have been observed in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), or scleroderma. How type I IFN regulates the dermal fibroblast and its participation in the development of dermal fibrosis is not known. We hypothesized that one mechanism by which type I IFN may contribute to dermal fibrosis is through upregulation of specific Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on dermal fibroblasts. Therefore, we investigated the regulation of TLR expression on dermal fibroblasts by IFN.
Methods
The expression of TLRs was assessed in cultured dermal fibroblasts from control and SSc patients stimulated with IFNα2. The ability of IFNα2 to regulate TLR-induced interleukin (IL)-6 and CC chemokine ligand 2 production was also assessed. Immunohistochemical analyses were performed to determine whether TLR3 was expressed in skin biopsies in the bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis model and in patients with SSc.
Results
IFNα2 increased TLR3 expression on human dermal fibroblasts, which resulted in enhanced TLR3-induced IL-6 production. SSc fibroblasts have an augmented TLR3 response to IFNα2 relative to control fibroblasts. Pretreatment of fibroblasts with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β increased TLR3 induction by IFNα2, but coincubation of TGF-β did not alter TLR3 induction by IFN. Furthermore, IFNα2 inhibits but does not completely block the induction of connective tissue growth factor and collagen expression by TGF-βin fibroblasts. TLR3 expression was observed in dermal fibroblasts and inflammatory cells from skin biopsies from patients with SSc as well as in the bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis model.
Conclusions
Type I IFNs can increase the inflammatory potential of dermal fibroblasts through the upregulation of TLR3.
doi:10.1186/ar3221
PMCID: PMC3241348  PMID: 21223583
3.  Plasma cytokine profiles in systemic sclerosis: associations with autoantibody subsets and clinical manifestations 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2009;11(5):R147.
Introduction
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) (scleroderma) is a complex autoimmune disease that clinically manifests as progressive fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Anti-centromere antibodies (ACAs), anti-topoisomerase antibodies (ATAs), and anti-RNA polymerase III antibodies (ARAs) are three mutually exclusive SSc-associated autoantibodies that correlate with distinct clinical subsets characterized by extent of cutaneous involvement and pattern of organ involvement. The current report sought to determine whether plasma cytokine profiles differ in SSc patients grouped according to these SSc-associated autoantibody subsets.
Methods
Plasma from 444 SSc patients and 216 healthy controls was obtained from the Scleroderma Family Registry and University of Texas Rheumatology Division. Patients were classified according to the presence of ACAs, ATAs, ARAs, or none of the above (antibody-negative). Levels of 13 cytokines were determined using multiplex assays.
Results
Compared with females, healthy control males had higher plasma levels of IL-2 (P = 0.008), IL-5 (P = 0.01) and IL-8 (P = 0.01). In addition, in controls, IL-6 (P = 0.02) and IL-17 (P = 0.01) levels increased with advancing age. After adjusting for age and gender, SSc patients had higher circulating levels of TNFα (P < 0.0001), IL-6 (P < 0.0001), and IFNγ (P = 0.05) and lower IL-17 (P = 0.0005) and IL-23 (P = 0.014). Additional analyses demonstrated that disease duration also influenced these cytokine profiles. IL-6 was elevated in ATA-positive and ARA-positive patients, but not in ACA-positive patients. IL-8 was uniquely increased in the ATA-positive subset while both ATA-positive and ACA-positive subsets had elevated IFNγ and IL-10. IL-5 was only significantly increased in the ACA-positive subset. Lastly, patients with interstitial lung disease had elevated IL-6 and patients with pulmonary hypertension had elevated IL-6 and IL-13.
Conclusions
Plasma cytokine profiles differ in SSc patients based on the presence of SSc-associated autoantibodies. Plasma cytokine profiles in SSc patients may also be affected by disease duration and the pattern of internal organ involvement.
doi:10.1186/ar2821
PMCID: PMC2787259  PMID: 19799786
4.  New insight on the Xq28 association with systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;72(12):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202742.
Objective
To evaluate whether the systemic sclerosis (SSc)-associated IRAK1 non-synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphism rs1059702 is responsible for the Xq28 association with SSc or whether there are other independent signals in the nearby methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 gene (MECP2).
Methods
We analysed a total of 3065 women with SSc and 2630 unaffected controls from five independent Caucasian cohorts. Four tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms of MECP2 (rs3027935, rs17435, rs5987201 and rs5945175) and the IRAK1 variant rs1059702 were genotyped using TaqMan predesigned assays. A meta-analysis including all cohorts was performed to test the overall effect of these Xq28 polymorphisms on SSc.
Results
IRAK1 rs1059702 and MECP2 rs17435 were associated specifically with diffuse cutaneous SSc (PFDR=4.12×10−3, OR=1.27, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.47, and PFDR=5.26×10−4, OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.48, respectively), but conditional logistic regression analysis showed that the association of IRAK1 rs1059702 with this subtype was explained by that of MECP2 rs17435. On the other hand, IRAK1 rs1059702 was consistently associated with presence of pulmonary fibrosis (PF), because statistical significance was observed when comparing SSc patients PF+ versus controls (PFDR=0.039, OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.58) and SSc patients PF+ versus SSc patients PF− (p=0.025, OR=1.26, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.55).
Conclusions
Our data clearly suggest the existence of two independent signals within the Xq28 region, one located in IRAK1 related to PF and another in MECP2 related to diffuse cutaneous SSc, indicating that both genes may have an impact on the clinical outcome of the disease.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202742
PMCID: PMC3818491  PMID: 23444193
5.  Skin Gene Expression Correlates of Severity of Interstitial Lung Disease in Systemic Sclerosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(11):2917-2927.
Objective
We undertook this hypothesis-generating study to identify skin transcripts correlating with severity of interstitial lung disease (ILD) in systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Methods
Skin biopsy samples from 59 patients enrolled in the Genetics versus Environment in Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS) cohort or an open-label imatinib study (baseline visit) were examined by global gene expression analysis using Illumina HT-12 arrays. Skin transcripts correlating with concomitantly obtained forced vital capacity (FVC) values and the modified Rodnan skin thickness score (MRSS) were identified by quantitative trait analysis. Also, immunofluorescence staining for selected transcripts was performed in affected skin and lung tissue. Plasma levels of CCL2, soluble SELP, and soluble P-selectin glycoprotein ligand 1 (sPSGL-1) were examined in all patients enrolled in the GENISOS cohort (n = 266).
Results
Eighty-two skin transcripts correlated significantly with FVC. This gene list distinguished patients with more severe ILD (FVC <70% predicted) in unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis (P < 0.001). These genes included SELP, CCL2, and matrix metalloproteinase 3, which are involved in extravasation and adhesion of inflammatory cells. Among the FVC correlates, 8 genes (CCL2, HAPLN3, GPR4, ADCYAP1, WARS, CDC25B, PLP1, and STXBP6) also correlated with the MRSS. Immunofluorescence staining revealed that SELP and CCL2 were also overexpressed in affected skin and lung tissue from SSc patients compared to those from controls. Plasma levels of CCL2 and sPSGL-1 correlated with concomitantly obtained FVC values (r = −0.22, P = 0.001 and r = 0.17, P = 0.015, respectively). This relationship was independent of potential confounders (age, sex, ethnicity, smoking status, anti–topoisomerase I positivity, treatment with immunosuppressive agents, MRSS, disease type, and disease duration).
Conclusion
A limited number of skin transcripts including genes involved in extravasation and adhesion of inflammatory cells correlate with severity of ILD.
doi:10.1002/art.38101
PMCID: PMC3898704  PMID: 23897225
6.  A systemic sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus pan-meta-GWAS reveals new shared susceptibility loci 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(19):4021-4029.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are two archetypal systemic autoimmune diseases which have been shown to share multiple genetic susceptibility loci. In order to gain insight into the genetic basis of these diseases, we performed a pan-meta-analysis of two genome-wide association studies (GWASs) together with a replication stage including additional SSc and SLE cohorts. This increased the sample size to a total of 21 109 (6835 cases and 14 274 controls). We selected for replication 19 SNPs from the GWAS data. We were able to validate KIAA0319L (P = 3.31 × 10−11, OR = 1.49) as novel susceptibility loci for SSc and SLE. Furthermore, we also determined that the previously described SLE susceptibility loci PXK (P = 3.27 × 10−11, OR = 1.20) and JAZF1 (P = 1.11 × 10−8, OR = 1.13) are shared with SSc. Supporting these new discoveries, we observed that KIAA0319L was overexpressed in peripheral blood cells of SSc and SLE patients compared with healthy controls. With these, we add three (KIAA0319L, PXK and JAZF1) and one (KIAA0319L) new susceptibility loci for SSc and SLE, respectively, increasing significantly the knowledge of the genetic basis of autoimmunity.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt248
PMCID: PMC3766185  PMID: 23740937
7.  Identification of Cadherin 11 as a Mediator of Dermal Fibrosis and Possible Role in Systemic Sclerosis 
Objective
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a chronic autoimmune disease clinically manifesting as progressive fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Recent microarray studies demonstrated that cadherin 11 (Cad-11) expression is increased in the affected skin of patients with SSc. The purpose of this study was to examine our hypothesis that Cad-11 is a mediator of dermal fibrosis.
Methods
Biopsy samples of skin from SSc patients and healthy control subjects were used for real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis to assess Cad-11 expression and for immunohistochemistry to determine the expression pattern of Cad-11. To determine whether Cad-11 is a mediator of dermal fibrosis, Cad-11–deficient mice and anti–Cad-11 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) were used in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. In vitro studies with dermal fibroblasts and bone marrow–derived macrophages were used to determine the mechanisms by which Cad-11 contributes to the development of tissue fibrosis.
Results
Levels of messenger RNA for Cad-11 were increased in skin biopsy samples from patients with SSc and correlated with the modified Rodnan skin thickness scores. Cad-11 expression was localized to dermal fibroblasts and macrophages in SSc skin. Cad-11–knockout mice injected with bleomycin had markedly attenuated dermal fibrosis, as quantified by measurements of skin thickness, collagen levels, myofibroblast accumulation, and profibrotic gene expression, in lesional skin as compared to the skin of wild-type mice. In addition, anti–Cad-11 mAb decreased fibrosis at various time points in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. In vitro studies demonstrated that Cad-11 regulated the production of transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) by macrophages and the migration of fibroblasts.
Conclusion
These data demonstrate that Cad-11 is a mediator of dermal fibrosis and TGFβ production and suggest that Cad-11 may be a therapeutic target in SSc.
doi:10.1002/art.38275
PMCID: PMC4154539  PMID: 24757152
8.  Confirmation of TNIP1 but not RHOB and PSORS1C1 as systemic sclerosis risk factors in a large independent replication study 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201888.
Introduction
A recent genome-wide association study in European systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients identified three loci (PSORS1C1, TNIP1 and RHOB) as novel genetic risk factors for the disease. The aim of this study was to replicate the previously mentioned findings in a large multicentre independent SSc cohort of Caucasian ancestry.
Methods
4389 SSc patients and 7611 healthy controls from different European countries and the USA were included in the study. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP): rs342070, rs13021401 (RHOB), rs2233287, rs4958881, rs3792783 (TNIP1) and rs3130573 (PSORS1C1) were analysed. Overall significance was calculated by pooled analysis of all the cohorts. Haplotype analyses and conditional logistic regression analyses were carried out to explore further the genetic structure of the tested loci.
Results
Pooled analyses of all the analysed SNPs in TNIP1 revealed significant association with the whole disease (rs2233287 pMH=1.94×10−4, OR 1.19; rs4958881 pMH=3.26×10−5, OR 1.19; rs3792783 pMH=2.16×10−4, OR 1.19). These associations were maintained in all the subgroups considered. PSORS1C1 comparison showed association with the complete set of patients and all the subsets except for the anti-centromere-positive patients. However, the association was dependent on different HLA class II alleles. The variants in the RHOB gene were not associated with SSc or any of its subsets.
Conclusions
These data confirmed the influence of TNIP1 on an increased susceptibility to SSc and reinforced this locus as a common autoimmunity risk factor.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201888
PMCID: PMC3887516  PMID: 22896740
9.  Interferon Inducible Chemokines Correlate with Disease Severity in Systemic Sclerosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(1):226-235.
Objective
To measure interferon (IFN) inducible chemokines in plasma of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and investigate their correlation with disease severity.
Methods
We examined the correlation of IFN-inducible chemokines, IFNγ-inducible protein-10 (IP-10/CXCL10), IFN-inducible T cell alpha chemoattractant (I-TAC/CXCL11), and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2) with the IFN gene expression signature. We generated an IFN-inducible chemokine score with the correlated chemokines, IP-10 and I-TAC and compared it in 266 SSc patients enrolled in the GENISOS cohort to that of 97 matched controls. Subsequently, the correlation between the baseline IFN-inducible chemokine score and markers of disease severity was assessed. Finally, the course of IFN-inducible chemokine score over time was examined.
Results
The plasma IFN-inducible chemokine score correlated with the IFN gene expression signature and this score was higher in SSc patients. It also was associated with the absence of anti–RNA polymerase III antibodies, presence of anti–U1 ribonucleoprotein antibodies (RNP), but not with disease duration, type, or other autoantibodies. The chemokine scores correlated with concomitantly obtained muscle, skin and lung components of the Medsger Severity Index, as well as, FVC, DLco, creatine kinase. Its association with disease severity was independent of anti-RNP or other potential confounders (age, gender, ethnicity, disease duration, and treatment with immunosuppressive agents). Finally, there was not a significant change in the IFN-inducible chemokine score over time.
Conclusions
The IFN-inducible chemokine score is a stable serological marker of more severe subtype of SSc and may be useful for risk stratification regardless of disease type or duration.
doi:10.1002/art.37742
PMCID: PMC3687352  PMID: 23055137
10.  HLA-B35 Upregulates Endothelin-1 and Downregulates Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase via Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Response in Endothelial Cells 
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)  2010;184(9):10.4049/jimmunol.0903188.
The presence of the HLA-B35 allele has emerged as an important risk factor for the development of isolated pulmonary hypertension in patients with scleroderma, however the mechanisms underlying this association have not been fully elucidated. The goal of our study was to determine the molecular mechanisms that mediate the biological effects of HLA-B35 in endothelial cells (ECs). Our data demonstrate that HLA-B35 expression at physiological levels via adenoviral vector resulted in significantly increased endothelin-1 (ET-1) and a significantly decreased endothelial NO synthase (eNOS), mRNA, and protein levels. Furthermore, HLA-B35 greatly upregulated expression of chaperones, including heat shock proteins (HSPs) HSP70 (HSPA1A and HSPA1B) and HSP40 (DNAJB1 and DNAJB9), suggesting that HLA-B35 induces the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and unfolded protein response in ECs. Examination of selected mediators of the unfolded protein response, including H chain binding protein (BiP; GRP78), C/Ebp homologous protein (CHOP; GADD153), endoplasmic reticulum oxidase, and protein disulfide isomerase has revealed a consistent increase of BiP expression levels. Accordingly, thapsigargin, a known ER stress inducer, stimulated ET-1mRNAand protein levels in ECs. This study suggests that HLA-B35 could contribute to EC dysfunction via ER stress-mediated induction of ET-1 in patients with pulmonary hypertension.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.0903188
PMCID: PMC3836507  PMID: 20335527
11.  IRF5 polymorphism predicts prognosis in patients with systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2012;71(7):1197-1202.
Objective
The first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of systemic sclerosis (SSc) demonstrated three non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) susceptibility loci. The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of these gene variants on survival and severity of interstitial lung disease (ILD) in SSc.
Methods
The authors examined 1443 Caucasian SSc patients enrolled in the Genetics versus Environment In Scleroderma Outcome Study (GENISOS) and Scleroderma Family Registry (n = 914 – discovery cohort) and The Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Cohort (n = 529 – replication cohort). Forced vital capacity (FVC)% predicted was used as a surrogate for ILD severity. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms, IRF5 (rs10488631, rs12537284, rs4728142), STAT4 (rs3821236), CD247 (rs2056626) reached genome-wide significance in the SSc-GWAS and were examined in the current study.
Results
Overall, 15.5% of the patients had died over the follow-up period of 5.5 years. The IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele was predictive of longer survival in the discovery cohort (p = 0.021) and in the independent replication cohort (p = 0.047) and combined group (HR: 0.75, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.90, p = 0.002). The association of this SNP with survival was independent of age at disease onset, disease type and autoantibody profile (anticentromere and antitopoisomerase antibodies). The minor allele frequency of IRF5 rs4728142 was 49.4%.
Moreover, IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele correlated with higher FVC% predicted at enrolment (p = 0.019). Finally, the IRF5 rs4728142 minor allele was associated with lower IRF5 transcript expression in patients and controls (p = 0.016 and p = 0.034, respectively), suggesting that the IRF5, rs4728142 SNP, may be functionally relevant.
Conclusion
An SNP in the IRF5 promoter region (rs4728142), associated with lower IRF5 transcript levels, was predictive of longer survival and milder ILD in patients with SSc.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200901
PMCID: PMC3375372  PMID: 22440820
12.  Identification of CSK as a systemic sclerosis genetic risk factor through Genome Wide Association Study follow-up 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(12):2825-2835.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is complex autoimmune disease affecting the connective tissue; influenced by genetic and environmental components. Recently, we performed the first successful genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SSc. Here, we perform a large replication study to better dissect the genetic component of SSc. We selected 768 polymorphisms from the previous GWAS and genotyped them in seven replication cohorts from Europe. Overall significance was calculated for replicated significant SNPs by meta-analysis of the replication cohorts and replication-GWAS cohorts (3237 cases and 6097 controls). Six SNPs in regions not previously associated with SSc were selected for validation in another five independent cohorts, up to a total of 5270 SSc patients and 8326 controls. We found evidence for replication and overall genome-wide significance for one novel SSc genetic risk locus: CSK [P-value = 5.04 × 10−12, odds ratio (OR) = 1.20]. Additionally, we found suggestive association in the loci PSD3 (P-value = 3.18 × 10−7, OR = 1.36) and NFKB1 (P-value = 1.03 × 10−6, OR = 1.14). Additionally, we strengthened the evidence for previously confirmed associations. This study significantly increases the number of known putative genetic risk factors for SSc, including the genes CSK, PSD3 and NFKB1, and further confirms six previously described ones.
doi:10.1093/hmg/dds099
PMCID: PMC3368627  PMID: 22407130
13.  A GWAS follow-up study reveals the association of the IL12RB2 gene with systemic sclerosis in Caucasian populations 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;21(4):926-933.
A single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) at the IL12RB2 locus showed a suggestive association signal in a previously published genome-wide association study (GWAS) in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Aiming to reveal the possible implication of the IL12RB2 gene in SSc, we conducted a follow-up study of this locus in different Caucasian cohorts. We analyzed 10 GWAS-genotyped SNPs in the IL12RB2 region (2309 SSc patients and 5161 controls). We then selected three SNPs (rs3790567, rs3790566 and rs924080) based on their significance level in the GWAS, for follow-up in an independent European cohort comprising 3344 SSc and 3848 controls. The most-associated SNP (rs3790567) was further tested in an independent cohort comprising 597 SSc patients and 1139 controls from the USA. After conditional logistic regression analysis of the GWAS data, we selected rs3790567 [PMH= 1.92 × 10−5 odds ratio (OR) = 1.19] as the genetic variant with the firmest independent association observed in the analyzed GWAS peak of association. After the first follow-up phase, only the association of rs3790567 was consistent (PMH= 4.84 × 10−3 OR = 1.12). The second follow-up phase confirmed this finding (Pχ2 = 2.82 × 10−4 OR = 1.34). After performing overall pooled-analysis of all the cohorts included in the present study, the association found for the rs3790567 SNP in the IL12RB2 gene region reached GWAS-level significant association (PMH= 2.82 × 10−9 OR = 1.17). Our data clearly support the IL12RB2 genetic association with SSc, and suggest a relevant role of the interleukin 12 signaling pathway in SSc pathogenesis.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddr522
PMCID: PMC3298110  PMID: 22076442
14.  Novel identification of the IRF7 region as an anticentromere autoantibody propensity locus in systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(1):114-119.
Objective
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are related chronic autoimmune diseases of complex aetiology in which the interferon (IFN) pathway plays a key role. Recent studies have reported an association between IRF7 and SLE which confers a risk to autoantibody production. A study was undertaken to investigate whether the IRF7 genomic region is also involved in susceptibility to SSc and the main clinical features.
Methods
Two case-control sets of Caucasian origin from the USA and Spain, comprising a total of 2316 cases of SSc and 2347 healthy controls, were included in the study. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the PHRF1-IRF7-CDHR5 locus were genotyped using TaqMan allelic discrimination technology. A meta-analysis was performed to test the overall effect of these genetic variants on SSc.
Results
Four out of five analysed SNPs were Significantly associated with the presence of anticentromere autoantibodies (ACA) in the patients with SSc in the combined analysis (rs1131665: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.78; rs4963128: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.79; rs702966: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.82; and rs2246614: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.83). Significant p values were also obtained when the disease was tested globally; however, the statistical significance was lost when the ACA-positive patients were excluded from the study, suggesting that these associations rely on ACA positivity. Conditional logistic regression and allelic combination analyses suggested that the functional IRF7 SNP rs1131665 is the most likely causal variant.
Conclusions
The results show that variation in the IRF7 genomic region is associated with the presence of ACA in patients with SSc, supporting other evidence that this locus represents a common risk factor for autoantibody production in autoimmune diseases.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200275
PMCID: PMC3369428  PMID: 21926187
15.  Osteopontin in Systemic Sclerosis and its Role in Dermal Fibrosis 
Osteopontin (OPN) is a matricellular protein with proinflammatory and profibrotic properties. Previous reports demonstrate a role for OPN in wound healing and pulmonary fibrosis. Herein, we determined if OPN levels are increased in a large cohort of systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients and if OPN contributes dermal fibrosis. Plasma OPN levels were increased in SSc patients, including patients with limited and diffuse disease, compared to healthy controls. Immunohistology demonstrated OPN on fibroblast-like and inflammatory cells in SSc skin and lesional skin from mice in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. OPN deficient (OPN−/−) mice developed less dermal fibrosis compared to wild-type mice in the bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis model. Additional in vivo studies demonstrated that lesional skin from OPN−/− mice had fewer Mac-3+ cells, fewer myofibroblasts, decreased TGF-beta (TGFβ) and genes in the TGFβ pathway and decreased numbers of cells expressing phosphorylated SMAD2 (pSMAD) and ERK. In vitro, OPN−/− dermal fibroblasts had decreased migratory capacity but similar phosphorylation of SMAD2 by TGFβ. Finally, TGFβ production by OPN deficient macrophages was reduced compared to wild type. These data demonstrate an important role for OPN in the development of dermal fibrosis and suggest that OPN may be a novel therapeutic target in SSc.
doi:10.1038/jid.2012.32
PMCID: PMC3365548  PMID: 22402440
16.  The potential importance of Toll-like receptors in ankylosing spondylitis 
Cells involved in innate immunity scan for pathogens via extracellular and intracellular (endosomal) pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Engagement of PRRs by a specific ligand results in downstream activation of intracellular inflammatory cascades. There is emerging evidence indicating that one class of PRR, the Toll-like receptor (TLR) plays a potential role in the pathogenesis of spondyloarthropathies. Since certain Gram-negative bacteria are known to act as triggers for reactive arthritis, there has been much interest in studying the role of TLRs in spondyloarthropathies. In this article, we introduce the immunology of TLRs followed by a discussion of their potential role in ankylosing spondylitis.
doi:10.2217/IJR.11.61
PMCID: PMC3290398  PMID: 22389660
ankylosing spondylitis; pathogen recognition receptors; spondyloarthritis; Toll-like receptors
17.  Whole-blood Gene Expression Profiling in Ankylosing Spondylitis Shows Upregulation of Toll-like Receptor 4 and 5 
The Journal of rheumatology  2010;38(1):87-98.
Objective
To identify differentially expressed genes in peripheral blood cells (PBC) of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) relative to healthy controls and controls with systemic inflammation.
Methods
We investigated PBC samples of 16 patients with AS and 14 matched controls, in addition to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and systemic sclerosis (SSc) samples utilizing Illumina Human Ref-8 BeadChips. Candidate genes were confirmed using quantitative PCR. Subsequently, these genes were also validated in a separate sample of 27 patients with AS [before and after antitumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) treatment] and 27 matched controls.
Results
We identified 83 differentially expressed transcripts between AS patients and controls. This gene list was filtered through the lists of differentially expressed transcripts in SLE and SSc, which resulted in identification of 52 uniquely dysregulated transcripts in AS. Many of the differentially expressed genes belonged to Toll-like receptor (TLR) and related pathways. TLR4 and TLR5 were the only dysregulated TLR subtypes among AS patients. We confirmed the overexpression of TLR4 and TLR5 in AS patients in comparison to controls (p = 0.012 and p = 0.006, respectively) and SLE (p = 0.002, p = 0.008) using quantitative PCR in the same sample. Similarly, TLR4 (p = 0.007) and TLR5 (p = 0.012) were significantly upregulated among the AS patients before anti-TNF treatment in the confirmatory sample. TLR4 (p = 0.002) and TLR5 (p = 0.025) decreased significantly after anti-TNF treatment.
Conclusion
PBC gene expression profiling in AS shows an upregulation of TLR4 and TLR5. This supports the importance of TLR subtypes in the pathogenesis of AS that are responsible for the immune response to Gram-negative bacteria.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.100469
PMCID: PMC3014385  PMID: 20952467
ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS; TOLL-LIKE RECEPTORS; IMMUNE SYSTEM; AUTOIMMUNITY; BACTERIA; GENE EXPRESSION PROFILING
18.  TGFBR2 mutations alter smooth muscle cell phenotype and predispose to thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections 
Cardiovascular Research  2010;88(3):520-529.
Aims
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling is critical for the differentiation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) into quiescent cells expressing a full repertoire of contractile proteins. Heterozygous mutations in TGF-β receptor type II (TGFBR2) disrupt TGF-β signaling and lead to genetic conditions that predispose to thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections (TAADs). The aim of this study is to determine the molecular mechanism by which TGFBR2 mutations cause TAADs.
Methods and results
Using aortic SMCs explanted from patients with TGFBR2 mutations, we show decreased expression of SMC contractile proteins compared with controls. Exposure to TGF-β1 fails to increase expression of contractile genes in mutant SMCs, whereas control cells further increase expression of these genes. Analysis of fixed and frozen aortas from patients with TGFBR2 mutations confirms decreased in vivo expression of contractile proteins relative to unaffected aortas. Fibroblasts explanted from patients with TGFBR2 mutations fail to transform into mature myofibroblasts with TGF-β1 stimulation as assessed by expression of contractile proteins.
Conclusions
These data support the conclusion that heterozygous TGFBR2 mutations lead to decreased expression of SMC contractile protein in both SMCs and myofibroblasts. The failure of TGFBR2-mutant SMCs to fully express SMC contractile proteins predicts defective contractile function in these cells and aligns with a hypothesis that defective SMC contractile function contributes to the pathogenesis of TAAD.
doi:10.1093/cvr/cvq230
PMCID: PMC2972687  PMID: 20628007
Thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections; Smooth muscle cell differentiation; TGF-β; TGFBR2 mutations; Myofibroblast
19.  Correction: Identification of Novel Genetic Markers Associated with Clinical Phenotypes of Systemic Sclerosis through a Genome-Wide Association Strategy 
Gorlova, Olga | Martin, Jose-Ezequiel | Rueda, Blanca | Koeleman, Bobby P. C. | Ying, Jun | Teruel, Maria | Diaz-Gallo, Lina-Marcela | Broen, Jasper C. | Vonk, Madelon C. | Simeon, Carmen P. | Alizadeh, Behrooz Z. | Coenen, Marieke J. H. | Voskuyl, Alexandre E. | Schuerwegh, Annemie J. | van Riel, Piet L. C. M. | Vanthuyne, Marie | van 't Slot, Ruben | Italiaander, Annet | Ophoff, Roel A. | Hunzelmann, Nicolas | Fonollosa, Vicente | Ortego-Centeno, Norberto | González-Gay, Miguel A. | García-Hernández, Francisco J. | González-Escribano, María F. | Airo, Paolo | van Laar, Jacob | Worthington, Jane | Hesselstrand, Roger | Smith, Vanessa | de Keyser, Filip | Houssiau, Fredric | Chee, Meng May | Madhok, Rajan | Shiels, Paul G. | Westhovens, Rene | Kreuter, Alexander | de Baere, Elfride | Witte, Torsten | Padyukov, Leonid | Nordin, Annika | Scorza, Raffaella | Lunardi, Claudio | Lie, Benedicte A. | Hoffmann-Vold, Anna-Maria | Palm, Øyvind | García de la Peña, Paloma | Carreira, Patricia | Varga, John | Hinchcliff, Monique | Lee, Annette T. | Gourh, Pravitt | Amos, Christopher I. | Wigley, Frederick M. | Hummers, Laura K. | Nelson, J. Lee | Riemekasten, Gabriella | Herrick, Ariane | Beretta, Lorenzo | Fonseca, Carmen | Denton, Christopher P. | Gregersen, Peter K. | Agarwal, Sandeep | Assassi, Shervin | Tan, Filemon K. | Arnett, Frank C. | Radstake, Timothy R. D. J. | Mayes, Maureen D. | Martin, Javier
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(8):10.1371/annotation/3aeebb2e-64e5-4548-8d65-1f2d5dfeb073.
doi:10.1371/annotation/3aeebb2e-64e5-4548-8d65-1f2d5dfeb073
PMCID: PMC3166261
20.  Correction: Identification of Novel Genetic Markers Associated with Clinical Phenotypes of Systemic Sclerosis through a Genome-Wide Association Strategy 
Gorlova, Olga | Martin, Jose-Ezequiel | Rueda, Blanca | Koeleman, Bobby P. C. | Ying, Jun | Teruel, Maria | Diaz-Gallo, Lina-Marcela | Broen, Jasper C. | Vonk, Madelon C. | Simeon, Carmen P. | Alizadeh, Behrooz Z. | Coenen, Marieke J. H. | Voskuyl, Alexandre E. | Schuerwegh, Annemie J. | van Riel, Piet L. C. M. | Vanthuyne, Marie | van 't Slot, Ruben | Italiaander, Annet | Ophoff, Roel A. | Hunzelmann, Nicolas | Fonollosa, Vicente | Ortego-Centeno, Norberto | González-Gay, Miguel A. | García-Hernández, Francisco J. | González-Escribano, María F. | Airo, Paolo | van Laar, Jacob | Worthington, Jane | Hesselstrand, Roger | Smith, Vanessa | de Keyser, Filip | Houssiau, Fredric | Chee, Meng May | Madhok, Rajan | Shiels, Paul G. | Westhovens, Rene | Kreuter, Alexander | de Baere, Elfride | Witte, Torsten | Padyukov, Leonid | Nordin, Annika | Scorza, Raffaella | Lunardi, Claudio | Lie, Benedicte A. | Hoffmann-Vold, Anna-Maria | Palm, Øyvind | García de la Peña, Paloma | Carreira, Patricia | Varga, John | Hinchcliff, Monique | Lee, Annette T. | Gourh, Pravitt | Amos, Christopher I. | Wigley, Frederick M. | Hummers, Laura K. | Nelson, J. Lee | Riemekasten, Gabriella | Herrick, Ariane | Beretta, Lorenzo | Fonseca, Carmen | Denton, Christopher P. | Gregersen, Peter K. | Agarwal, Sandeep | Assassi, Shervin | Tan, Filemon K. | Arnett, Frank C. | Radstake, Timothy R. D. J. | Mayes, Maureen D. | Martin, Javier
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(8):10.1371/annotation/7a52649c-0942-4bd8-a5d3-3cdacca03cd8.
doi:10.1371/annotation/7a52649c-0942-4bd8-a5d3-3cdacca03cd8
PMCID: PMC3166262
21.  Identification of Novel Genetic Markers Associated with Clinical Phenotypes of Systemic Sclerosis through a Genome-Wide Association Strategy 
Gorlova, Olga | Martin, Jose-Ezequiel | Rueda, Blanca | Koeleman, Bobby P. C. | Ying, Jun | Teruel, Maria | Diaz-Gallo, Lina-Marcela | Broen, Jasper C. | Vonk, Madelon C. | Simeon, Carmen P. | Alizadeh, Behrooz Z. | Coenen, Marieke J. H. | Voskuyl, Alexandre E. | Schuerwegh, Annemie J. | van Riel, Piet L. C. M. | Vanthuyne, Marie | van 't Slot, Ruben | Italiaander, Annet | Ophoff, Roel A. | Hunzelmann, Nicolas | Fonollosa, Vicente | Ortego-Centeno, Norberto | González-Gay, Miguel A. | García-Hernández, Francisco J. | González-Escribano, María F. | Airo, Paolo | van Laar, Jacob | Worthington, Jane | Hesselstrand, Roger | Smith, Vanessa | de Keyser, Filip | Houssiau, Fredric | Chee, Meng May | Madhok, Rajan | Shiels, Paul G. | Westhovens, Rene | Kreuter, Alexander | de Baere, Elfride | Witte, Torsten | Padyukov, Leonid | Nordin, Annika | Scorza, Raffaella | Lunardi, Claudio | Lie, Benedicte A. | Hoffmann-Vold, Anna-Maria | Palm, Øyvind | García de la Peña, Paloma | Carreira, Patricia | Varga, John | Hinchcliff, Monique | Lee, Annette T. | Gourh, Pravitt | Amos, Christopher I. | Wigley, Frederick M. | Hummers, Laura K. | Hummers, J. | Nelson, J. Lee | Riemekasten, Gabriella | Herrick, Ariane | Beretta, Lorenzo | Fonseca, Carmen | Denton, Christopher P. | Gregersen, Peter K. | Agarwal, Sandeep | Assassi, Shervin | Tan, Filemon K. | Arnett, Frank C. | Radstake, Timothy R. D. J. | Mayes, Maureen D. | Martin, Javier
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(7):e1002178.
The aim of this study was to determine, through a genome-wide association study (GWAS), the genetic components contributing to different clinical sub-phenotypes of systemic sclerosis (SSc). We considered limited (lcSSc) and diffuse (dcSSc) cutaneous involvement, and the relationships with presence of the SSc-specific auto-antibodies, anti-centromere (ACA), and anti-topoisomerase I (ATA). Four GWAS cohorts, comprising 2,296 SSc patients and 5,171 healthy controls, were meta-analyzed looking for associations in the selected subgroups. Eighteen polymorphisms were further tested in nine independent cohorts comprising an additional 3,175 SSc patients and 4,971 controls. Conditional analysis for associated SNPs in the HLA region was performed to explore their independent association in antibody subgroups. Overall analysis showed that non-HLA polymorphism rs11642873 in IRF8 gene to be associated at GWAS level with lcSSc (P = 2.32×10−12, OR = 0.75). Also, rs12540874 in GRB10 gene (P = 1.27 × 10−6, OR = 1.15) and rs11047102 in SOX5 gene (P = 1.39×10−7, OR = 1.36) showed a suggestive association with lcSSc and ACA subgroups respectively. In the HLA region, we observed highly associated allelic combinations in the HLA-DQB1 locus with ACA (P = 1.79×10−61, OR = 2.48), in the HLA-DPA1/B1 loci with ATA (P = 4.57×10−76, OR = 8.84), and in NOTCH4 with ACA P = 8.84×10−21, OR = 0.55) and ATA (P = 1.14×10−8, OR = 0.54). We have identified three new non-HLA genes (IRF8, GRB10, and SOX5) associated with SSc clinical and auto-antibody subgroups. Within the HLA region, HLA-DQB1, HLA-DPA1/B1, and NOTCH4 associations with SSc are likely confined to specific auto-antibodies. These data emphasize the differential genetic components of subphenotypes of SSc.
Author Summary
Scleroderma or systemic sclerosis is a complex autoimmune disease affecting one individual of every 100,000 in Caucasian populations. Even though current genetic studies have led to better understanding of the pathogenesis of the disease, much remains unknown. Scleroderma is a heterogeneous disease, which can be subdivided according to different criteria, such as the involvement of organs and the presence of specific autoantibodies. Such subgroups present more homogeneous genetic groups, and some genetic associations with these manifestations have already been described. Through reanalysis of a genome-wide association study data, we identify three novel genes containing genetic variations which predispose to subphenotypes of the disease (IRF8, GRB10, and SOX5). Also, we better characterize the patterns of associated loci found in the HLA region. Together, our findings lead to a better understanding of the genetic component of scleroderma.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002178
PMCID: PMC3136437  PMID: 21779181
22.  Gene Expression Changes in Multiple Sclerosis Relapse Suggest Activation of T and Non-T Cells 
Molecular Medicine  2010;17(1-2):95-102.
A defining feature of multiple sclerosis (MS) is the occurrence of clinical relapses separated by periods of clinical stability. Better understanding of the events underlying clinical relapse might suggest new approaches to treatment. The objective of this study was to measure changes in the expression of RNA in the blood during relapse. We used microarrays to measure mRNA expression in paired samples from 14 MS patients during clinical relapse and while stable. Seventy-one transcripts changed expression at the P < 0.001 significance level. The most notable finding was decreased expression of transcripts with regulatory function, expressed primarily in non-T cells. These decreased transcripts included the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, which had a corresponding decrease in the protein concentration in serum. Transcripts with increased expression were expressed primarily in T cells. Pathways analysis suggested involvement of the cytokine network, coagulation and complement cascades, IL-10 signaling and NF-κB signaling. We conclude that there are alterations of mRNA expression in both T cells and non-T cells during MS relapse.
doi:10.2119/molmed.2010.00071
PMCID: PMC3022990  PMID: 20882258
23.  Polymorphisms in TBX21 and STAT4 Increase the Risk of Systemic Sclerosis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(12):3794-3806.
Objective
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs. Dysregulation of the immune system, including the Th1/Th2 cytokine balance, is central to the pathogenesis of SSc. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TBX21 and STAT4, both of which are critical transcription factors that regulate the Th1/Th2 balance, are associated with SSc susceptibility.
Methods
We tested SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 for association with SSc in 2 independent cohorts, the SSc Registry cohort (880 SSc cases and 507 controls) and the University of Texas SSc cohort (522 cases and 531 controls). Additional white control genotypes were obtained from public repositories. We also investigated for gene–gene interactions. Plasma cytokines and whole blood gene expression profiles were examined to determine functional effects of these SNPs.
Results
Multiple SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 were found to be associated with SSc. In a combined analysis of 902 SSc patients and 4,745 controls, TT genotyping of the TBX21 rs11650354 variant revealed a recessive pattern for disease susceptibility (Pcorr = 1.4 × 10−15, odds ratio 3.37, 95% confidence interval 2.4–4.6). In an analysis of 1,039 SSc patients and 3,322 controls, the A allele of the STAT4 variant rs11889341 was associated with increased SSc susceptibility in a dominant pattern (Pcorr = 2.4 × 10−5, odds ratio 1.29, 95% confidence interval 1.2–1.5). Furthermore, we identified gene–gene interaction among the TBX21 and STAT4 variants, such that the STAT4 genotype increased the risk of SSc only in the TBX21 CC genotype group. SSc patients carrying the TBX21 CC genotype had higher interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor α levels, and those with the TT genotype had elevated IL-2, IL-5, IL-4, and IL-13 (Th2) levels, compared with controls. Whole blood expression profiles revealed dysregulation of type I interferon pathways in the CC group and T cell pathways in the TT group of the TBX21 SNP.
Conclusion
The present results, from studies of 2 independent cohorts, indicate that SNPs in TBX21 and STAT4 contribute uniquely and interactively to SSc susceptibility, leading to altered cytokine balance and immune dysregulation.
doi:10.1002/art.24958
PMCID: PMC2998060  PMID: 19950257
24.  Genome-wide association study of systemic sclerosis identifies CD247 as a novel susceptibility locus 
Nature genetics  2010;42(5):426-429.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs that leads to profound disability and premature death. To identify novel SSc susceptibility loci we conducted the first genome wide association study (GWAS) in a population of Caucasian ancestry including a total of 2296 SSc patients and 5171 controls. Analysis of 279,621 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) followed by replication testing in an independent case-control set of European ancestry (2,753 SSc patients / 4,569 controls) identified a new susceptibility locus for systemic sclerosis at CD247 (1q22-23; rs2056626, P = 2.09 × 10−7 in the discovery samples, P = 3.39 × 10−9 in the combined analysis). Additionally, we confirm and firmly establish the role of MHC (2.31 × 10−18), IRF5 (P =1.86 × 10−13) and STAT4 (P =3.37 × 10−9) gene regions as SSc genetic risk factors.
doi:10.1038/ng.565
PMCID: PMC2861917  PMID: 20383147
25.  Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II alleles, haplotypes and epitopes which confer susceptibility or protection in systemic sclerosis: analyses in 1300 Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic cases and 1000 controls 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(5):822-827.
Objective
To determine human leucocyte antigen-class II (HLA-class II) (DRB1, DQB1, DQA1 and DPB1) alleles, haplotypes and shared epitopes associated with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis (SSc)) and its subphenotypes in a large multi-ethnic US cohort by a case–control association study.
Patients and methods
1300 SSc cases (961 white, 178 black and 161 Hispanic subjects) characterised for clinical skin forms (limited vs diffuse), SSc-specific autoantibodies (anticentromere (ACA), anti-topoisomerase I (ATA), anti-RNA polymerase III (ARA), anti-U3 ribonucleoprotein (fibrillarin)) and others were studied using molecular genotyping. Statistical analyses in SSc itself by ethnicity, gender, skin type and autoantibodies were performed using exact logistic regression modelling for dominant, additive and recessive effects from HLA.
Results
The strongest positive class II associations with SSc in white and Hispanic subjects were the DRB1*1104, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 haplotype and DQB1 alleles encoding a non-leucine residue at position 26 (DQB1 26 epi), while the DRB1*0701, DQA1*0201, DQB1*0202 haplotype and DRB1*1501 haplotype were negatively correlated and possibly protective in dominant and recessive models, respectively. These associations did not discriminate between limited and diffuse SSc. SSc in black subjects was associated with DRB1*0804, DQA1*0501, DQB1*0301 alleles. DPB1*1301 showed the highest odds ratio for ATA (OR = 14). Moreover, it showed no linkage disequilibrium or gene interaction with DR/DQ. ACA was best explained by DQB1*0501 and DQB1*26 epi alleles and ARA by DRB1*0404, DRB1*11 and DQB1*03 alleles in white and Hispanic subjects but DRB1*08 in black subjects.
Conclusion
These data indicate unique and multiple HLA-class II effects in SSc, especially on autoantibody markers of different subphenotypes.
doi:10.1136/ard.2009.111906
PMCID: PMC2916702  PMID: 19596691

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