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1.  Autoimmune Disease Genetics 2013 
Journal of Immunology Research  2014;2014:487643.
PMCID: PMC4140134  PMID: 25165727
2.  Autoimmune Disease Genetics 
PMCID: PMC3540923  PMID: 23320016
3.  Dysregulation of antiviral helicase pathways in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:418.
In the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), our normal antiviral defenses are inappropriately activated, resulting in over-activity of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway. This increased activity of the type I IFN pathway is an important primary pathogenic factor in the disease. Emerging evidence has implicated the antiviral helicases in this process. The antiviral helicases normally function as nucleic acid receptors in viral immunity. Genetic variations in antiviral helicase genes have been associated with SLE, supporting the idea that helicase pathways are involved in the primary pathogenesis of SLE. Studies have documented functional consequences of these genetic variations within the type I IFN pathway in human cell lines and SLE patients. In this review, we summarize the function of helicases in the anti-viral immune response, and how this response is dysregulated in SLE patients. In particular, we will focus on known functional genetic polymorphisms in the IFIH1 (MDA5) and mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein genes which have been implicated in human SLE. These data provide fascinating evidence for dysregulation of helicase-mediated innate immunity in SLE, and may support novel therapeutic strategies in the disease.
PMCID: PMC4243696  PMID: 25505487
antiviral helicase; systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon
4.  Genetic Variation near IRF8 is Associated with Serologic and Cytokine Profiles in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Multiple Sclerosis 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(8):10.1038/gene.2013.42.
Alleles of IRF8 are associated with susceptibility to both systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple sclerosis (MS). While high type I interferon (IFN) is thought to be causal in SLE, type I IFN is used as a therapy in MS. We investigated whether IRF8 alleles were associated with type I IFN levels or serologic profiles in SLE and MS. Alleles which have been previously associated with SLE or MS were genotyped in SLE and MS patients. The MS-associated rs17445836G allele was associated with anti-dsDNA autoantibodies in SLE patients (meta-analysis OR=1.92). The same allele was associated with decreased serum IFN activity in SLE patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies, and with decreased type I IFN-induced gene expression in PBMC from anti-dsDNA negative SLE patients. In secondary progressive MS patients, rs17445836G was associated with decreased serum type I IFN. Rs17445836G was associated with increased IRF8 expression in SLE patient B cells. In summary, IRF8 rs17445836G is associated with human autoimmune disease characterized by low type I IFN levels, and this may have pharmacogenetic relevance as type I IFN is modulated in SLE and MS. The association with autoantibodies and increased IRF8 expression in B cells supports a role for rs17445836G in humoral tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3856198  PMID: 23965942
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon; autoantibodies; interferon regulatory factors
5.  Functional genetic polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with decreased surface expression on dendritic cells and increased serum cytokines in lupus patients 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):596-601.
Hyperactivity of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway is involved in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Immunoglobulin like transcript (ILT3) is an immunohibitory transmembrane molecule which is induced by type I IFNs. ILT3 is expressed by plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs), monocytoid dendritic cells (MDCs), and monocytes/macrophages. Given the pathogenic role of IFN in SLE, we hypothesised that the IFN-induced immunosuppressive ILT3 receptor may be dysfunctional in human SLE.
132 European-derived and 79 Hispanic-American SLE patients were genotyped for two coding-change single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) predicted to interfere with protein folding in ILT3 (rs11540761 and rs1048801). 116 control DNA samples and sera from healthy controls were also studied. We detected associations between ILT3 genotype and serum cytokine profiles. ILT3 expression levels on PDCs and MDCs from 18 patients and 10 controls were studied by flow cytometry.
The rs11540761 SNP in the extracellular region was associated with decreased cell surface expression of ILT3 on circulating MDCs and to a lesser extent PDCs in SLE patients. The cytoplasmically located rs1048801 SNP was not associated with a change in dendritic cells expression of ILT3. Both SNPs were significantly and independently associated with increased levels of serum type I IFN activity in SLE patients. The rs1048801 SNP was also associated with increased serum levels of TNF-α.
Loss-of-function polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with increased inflammatory cytokine levels in SLE, supporting a biological role for ILT3 in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3910490  PMID: 22904259
6.  Serum Type I Interferon Activity Is Dependent on Maternal Diagnosis in Anti-SSA/Ro–Positive Mothers of Children With Neonatal Lupus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(2):541-546.
The type I interferon (IFN) pathway is activated in many patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high serum levels of IFN are associated with anti-SSA/Ro autoantibodies. To investigate the clinical features associated with type I IFN production in vivo, we compared serum IFN activity in individuals with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies who were asymptomatic with that in individuals with clinical manifestations of SLE or Sjögren's syndrome (SS).
Antibody-positive sera from 84 mothers of children with manifestations of neonatal lupus were studied for type I IFN activity, using a functional reporter cell assay. Maternal health status was characterized as asymptomatic, SS, SLE, pauci-SLE, or pauci-SS, based on a screening questionnaire, telephone interview, and review of medical records. The prefix “pauci-” indicates symptoms insufficient for a formal classification of the disease.
Only 4% of asymptomatic mothers had high serum type I IFN activity, compared with 73% with pauci-SLE (P = 5.7 × 10−5), 35% with SLE (P = 0.011), and 32% of patients with SS (P = 0.032). One of the 4 patients with pauci-SS had high levels of IFN. The majority of patients for whom longitudinal data were available had stable type I IFN activity over time, and changes in IFN activity were not clearly accompanied by changes in the clinical diagnosis.
Patients with SLE, patients with pauci-SLE, and patients with SS are more likely to have high serum IFN activity than asymptomatic individuals with SSA/Ro autoantibodies, suggesting that these autoantibodies are insufficient for activation of the type I IFN pathway, and that disease-specific factors are important for type I IFN generation in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2755051  PMID: 18240214
7.  Type I Interferon in Human Autoimmunity 
PMCID: PMC4074699  PMID: 25071767
interferons; systemic lupus erythematosus; Sjogren’s syndrome; multiple sclerosis; scleroderma; systemic; type I diabetes; autoimmune thyroid disease
8.  IRF5 SLE-Risk Haplotype is Associated with Asymptomatic Serologic Autoimmunity and Progression to Clinical Autoimmunity in Neonatal Lupus Mothers 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3383-3387.
Genetic variation in interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been associated with risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and this association is largely dependent upon anti-Ro autoantibodies. We studied a unique cohort of anti-Ro positive individuals with diverse diagnoses to determine if IRF5 genotype associated with maternal diagnosis or progression of autoimmunity.
We genotyped haplotype-tagging polymorphisms in IRF5 in 93 European ancestry subjects recruited to the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus who all had high titer anti-Ro autoantibodies and a child with neonatal lupus (NL), and allele frequencies were compared to non-autoimmune controls. The mothers diagnoses included SLE, Sjogren’s syndrome (SS), undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome (UAS), and asymptomatic.
The SLE-risk haplotype of IRF5 was enriched in all anti-Ro positive subjects except those with SS (OR = 2.55, p=8.8×10−4). Even asymptomatic individuals with anti-Ro antibodies were enriched for the SLE-risk haplotype (OR=2.69, p=0.019). The same haplotype was more prevalent in subjects who were initially asymptomatic, but developed symptomatic SLE during follow up (OR=5.83, p=0.0024). Interestingly, SS was associated with two minor IRF5 haplotypes, and these same haplotypes were decreased in frequency in those with SLE and UAS.
The IRF5 SLE-risk haplotype was associated with anti-Ro antibodies in asymptomatic individuals as well as progression to SLE in asymptomatic anti-Ro positive individuals. SS in NL mothers was associated with different IRF5 haplotypes. These data suggest that IRF5 polymorphisms play a role in serologic autoimmunity in humans and may promote the progression to clinical autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3449035  PMID: 22674082
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon; autoantibodies; neonatal lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome
9.  Familial Aggregation of High Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients frequently have high circulating tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. We explored circulating TNF-α levels in SLE families to determine whether high levels of TNF-α were clustered in a heritable pattern. We measured TNF-α in 242 SLE patients, 361 unaffected family members, 23 unaffected spouses of SLE patients, and 62 unrelated healthy controls. Familial correlations and relative recurrence risk rates for the high TNF-α trait were assessed. SLE-affected individuals had the highest TNF-α levels, and TNF-α was significantly higher in unaffected first degree relatives than healthy unrelated subjects (P = 0.0025). No Mendelian patterns were observed, but 28.4% of unaffected first degree relatives of SLE patients had high TNF-α levels, resulting in a first degree relative recurrence risk of 4.48 (P = 2.9 × 10−5). Interestingly, the median TNF-α value in spouses was similar to that of the first degree relatives. Concordance of the TNF-α trait (high versus low) in SLE patients and their spouses was strikingly high at 78.2%. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis, and TNF-α levels may relate with heritable factors. The high degree of concordance in SLE patients and their spouses suggests that environmental factors may also play a role in the observed familial aggregation.
PMCID: PMC3800640  PMID: 24187561
10.  Large Scale Analysis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2947-2952.
SLE disease manifestations are highly variable between patients, and the prevalence of individual clinical features differs significantly by ancestry. Serum tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is elevated in some SLE patients, and may play a role in disease pathogenesis. We detected associations between serum TNF-α, clinical manifestations, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α in a large multi-ancestral SLE cohort.
We studied serum TNF-α in 653 SLE patients, including 214 African-American, 298 European-Americans and 141 Hispanic-American subjects. TNF-α was measured using ELISA, and IFN-α was measured with a functional reporter cell assay. Stratified and multivariate analyses were used to detect associations in each ancestral background separately, with meta-analysis when appropriate.
Serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher in SLE patients than in nonautoimmune controls (p<5.0×10−3 for each ancestral background). High serum TNF-α was positively correlated with high serum IFN-α when tested in the same sample across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR=1.8, p=1.2×10−3). While serum TNF-α levels alone did not differ significantly between SLE patients of different ancestral backgrounds, the proportion of patients with concurrently high TNF-α and high IFN-α was highest in African-Americans and lowest in European-Americans (p=5.0×10−3). Serum TNF-α was not associated with autoantibodies, clinical criteria for the diagnosis of SLE, or age at time of sample.
Serum TNF-α levels are high in many SLE patients, and we observed a positive correlation between serum TNF-α and IFN-α. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis across all ancestral backgrounds, and suggest important cytokine subgroups within the disease.
PMCID: PMC3396783  PMID: 22488302
systemic lupus erythematosus; tumor necrosis factor alpha; autoantibodies, ancestry
11.  Ribosomal and Immune Transcripts Associate with Relapse in Acquired ADAMTS13-Deficient Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117614.
Approximately 40% of patients who survive acute episodes of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) associated with severe acquired ADAMTS13 deficiency experience one or more relapses. Risk factors for relapse other than severe ADAMTS13 deficiency and ADAMTS13 autoantibodies are unknown. ADAMTS13 autoantibodies, TTP episodes following infection or type I interferon treatment and reported ensuing systemic lupus erythematosus in some patients suggest immune dysregulation. This cross-sectional study asked whether autoantibodies against RNA-binding proteins or peripheral blood gene expression profiles measured during remission are associated with history of prior relapse in acquired ADAMTS13-deficient TTP. Peripheral blood from 38 well-characterized patients with autoimmune ADAMTS13-deficient TTP in remission was examined for autoantibodies and global gene expression. A subset of TTP patients (9 patients, 24%) exhibited a peripheral blood gene signature composed of elevated ribosomal transcripts that associated with prior relapse. A non-overlapping subset of TTP patients (9 patients, 24%) displayed a peripheral blood type I interferon gene signature that associated with autoantibodies to RNA-binding proteins but not with history of relapse. Patients who had relapsed bimodally expressed higher HLA transcript levels independently of ribosomal transcripts. Presence of any one potential risk factor (ribosomal gene signature, elevated HLA-DRB1, elevated HLA-DRB5) associated with relapse (OR = 38.4; p = 0.0002) more closely than any factor alone or all factors together. Levels of immune transcripts typical of natural killer (NK) and T lymphocytes positively correlated with ribosomal gene expression and number of prior episodes but not with time since the most recent episode. Flow cytometry confirmed elevated expression of cell surface markers encoded by these transcripts on T and/or NK cell subsets of patients who had relapsed. These data associate elevated ribosomal and immune transcripts with relapse history in acquired, ADAMTS13-deficient TTP.
PMCID: PMC4324966  PMID: 25671313
12.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
13.  Activation of the Interferon Pathway is Dependent Upon Autoantibodies in African-American SLE Patients, but Not in European-American SLE Patients 
Background: In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), antibodies directed at RNA-binding proteins (anti-RBP) are associated with high serum type I interferon (IFN), which plays an important role in SLE pathogenesis. African-Americans (AA) are more likely to develop SLE, and SLE is also more severe in this population. We hypothesized that peripheral blood gene expression patterns would differ between AA and European-American (EA) SLE patients, and between those with anti-RBP antibodies and those who lack these antibodies.
Methods: Whole blood RNA from 33 female SLE patients and 16 matched female controls from AA and EA ancestral backgrounds was analyzed on Affymetrix Gene 1.0 ST gene expression arrays. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was used to compare the top differentially expressed canonical pathways amongst the sample groups. An independent cohort of 116 SLE patients was used to replicate findings using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR).
Results: Both AA and EA patients with positive anti-RBP antibodies showed over-expression of similar IFN-related canonical pathways, such as IFN Signaling (P = 1.3 × 10−7 and 6.3 × 10−11 in AA vs. EA respectively), Antigen Presenting Pathway (P = 1.8 × 10−5 and 2.5 × 10−6), and a number of pattern recognition receptor pathways. In anti-RBP negative (RBP−) patients, EA subjects demonstrated similar IFN-related pathway activation, whereas no IFN-related pathways were detected in RBP−AA patients. qPCR validation confirmed similar results.
Conclusion: Our data show that IFN-induced gene expression is completely dependent on the presence of autoantibodies in AA SLE patients but not in EA patients. This molecular heterogeneity suggests differences in IFN-pathway activation between ancestral backgrounds in SLE. This heterogeneity may be clinically important, as therapeutics targeting this pathway are being developed.
PMCID: PMC3787392  PMID: 24101921
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestral background; interferon gamma
14.  Nucleic Acid Sensors and Type I Interferon Production in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
The characteristic serologic feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is autoantibodies against one’s own nucleic acid or nucleic acid-binding proteins – DNA and RNA-binding nuclear proteins. Circulating autoantibodies can deposit in the tissue, causing inflammation and production of cytokines such as type 1 interferon (IFN). Investigations in human patients and animal models have implicated environmental as well as genetic factors in the biology of the SLE autoimmune response. Viral/Bacterial nucleic acid is a potent stimulant of innate immunity by both toll-like receptor (TLR) and non-TLR signaling cascades. Additionally, foreign DNA may act as an immunogen to drive an antigen-specific antibody response. Self nucleic acid is normally restricted to the nucleus or the mitochondria, away from the DNA/RNA sensors, and mechanisms exist to differentiate between foreign and self nucleic acid. In normal immunity, a diverse range of DNA and RNA sensors in different cell types form a dynamic and integrated molecular network to prevent viral infection. In SLE, pathologic activation of these sensors occurs via immune complexes consisting of autoantibodies bound to DNA or to nucleic acid-protein complexes. In this review, we will discuss recent studies outlining how mismanaged nucleic acid sensing networks promote autoimmunity and result in the over-production of type I IFN. This information is critical for improving therapeutic strategies for SLE disease.
PMCID: PMC3791549  PMID: 24109483
systemic lupus erythematosus; nucleic acid sensor; type 1 interferon; TLR; DNA; RNA
15.  Interferon Alpha as a Primary Pathogenic Factor in Human Lupus 
Interferon alpha (IFN-α) is a critical mediator of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This review will summarize evidence supporting the role for IFN-α in the initiation of human SLE. IFN-α functions in viral immunity at the interface of innate and adaptive immunity, a position well suited to setting thresholds for autoimmunity. Some individuals treated with IFN-α for chronic viral infections develop de novo SLE, which frequently resolves when IFN-α is withdrawn, supporting the idea that IFN-α was causal. Abnormally high IFN-α levels are clustered within SLE families, suggesting that high serum IFN-α is a heritable risk factor for SLE. Additionally, SLE-risk genetic variants in the IFN-α pathway are gain of function in nature, resulting in either higher circulating IFN-α levels or greater sensitivity to IFN-α signaling in SLE patients. A recent genome-wide association study has identified additional novel genetic loci associated with high serum IFN-α in SLE patients. These data support the idea that genetically determined endogenous elevations in IFN-α predispose to human SLE. It is possible that some of these gain-of-function polymorphisms in the IFN-α pathway are useful in viral defense, and that risk of SLE is a burden we have taken on in the fight to defend ourselves against viral infection.
PMCID: PMC3234490  PMID: 21923413
16.  Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 in the Pathogenesis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by multiple genetic risk factors, high levels of interferon alpha (IFN-α), and the production of autoantibodies against components of the cell nucleus. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) is a transcription factor which induces the transcription of IFN-α and other cytokines, and genetic variants of IRF5 have been strongly linked to SLE pathogenesis. IRF5 functions downstream of Toll-like receptors and other microbial pattern-recognition receptors, and immune complexes made up of SLE-associated autoantibodies seem to function as a chronic endogenous stimulus to this pathway. In this paper, we discuss the physiologic role of IRF5 in immune defense and the ways in which IRF5 variants may contribute to the pathogenesis of human SLE. Recent data regarding the role of IRF5 in both serologic autoimmunity and the overproduction of IFN-α in human SLE are summarized. These data support a model in which SLE-risk variants of IRF5 participate in a “feed-forward” mechanism, predisposing to SLE-associated autoantibody formation, and subsequently facilitating IFN-α production downstream of Toll-like receptors stimulated by immune complexes composed of these autoantibodies.
PMCID: PMC3509422  PMID: 23251221
17.  Autoimmune Disease Risk Variant of IFIH1 Is Associated with Increased Sensitivity to IFN-α and Serologic Autoimmunity in Lupus Patients 
Increased IFN-α signaling is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IFN induced with helicase C domain 1 (IFIH1) is a cytoplasmic dsRNA sensor that activates IFN-α pathway signaling. We studied the impact of the autoimmune-disease–associated IFIH1 rs1990760 (A946T) single nucleotide polymorphism upon IFN-α signaling in SLE patients in vivo. We studied 563 SLE patients (278 African-American, 179 European-American, and 106 Hispanic-American). Logistic regression models were used to detect genetic associations with autoantibody traits, and multiple linear regression was used to analyze IFN-α–induced gene expression in PBMCs in the context of serum IFN-α in the same blood sample. We found that the rs1990760 T allele was associated with anti-dsDNA Abs across all of the studied ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis odds ratio = 1.34, p = 0.026). This allele also was associated with lower serum IFN-α levels in subjects who had anti-dsDNA Abs (p = 0.0026). When we studied simultaneous serum and PBMC samples from SLE patients, we found that the IFIH1 rs1990760 T allele was associated with increased IFN-induced gene expression in PBMCs in response to a given amount of serum IFN-α in anti-dsDNA–positive patients. This effect was independent of the STAT4 genotype, which modulates sensitivity to IFN-α in a similar way. Thus, the IFIH1 rs1990760 Tallele was associated with dsDNA Abs, and in patients with anti-dsDNA Abs this risk allele increased sensitivity to IFN-α signaling. These studies suggest a role for the IFIH1 risk allele in SLE in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3304466  PMID: 21705624
18.  Gene-Expression-Guided Selection of Candidate Loci and Molecular Phenotype Analyses Enhance Genetic Discovery in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous autoimmune disorder characterized by differences in autoantibody profiles, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. We have previously conducted a case-case genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SLE patients to detect associations with autoantibody profile and serum interferon alpha (IFN-α). In this study, we used public gene expression data sets to rationally select additional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for validation. The top 200 GWAS SNPs were searched in a database which compares genome-wide expression data to genome-wide SNP genotype data in HapMap cell lines. SNPs were chosen for validation if they were associated with differential expression of 15 or more genes at a significance of P < 9 × 10−5. This resulted in 11 SNPs which were genotyped in 453 SLE patients and 418 matched controls. Three SNPs were associated with SLE-associated autoantibodies, and one of these SNPs was also associated with serum IFN-α (P < 4.5 × 10−3 for all). One additional SNP was associated exclusively with serum IFN-α. Case-control analysis was insensitive to these molecular subphenotype associations. This study illustrates the use of gene expression data to rationally select candidate loci in autoimmune disease, and the utility of stratification by molecular phenotypes in the discovery of additional genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3439981  PMID: 22988468
19.  Type I interferon signature is high in lupus and neuromyelitis optica but low in multiple sclerosis 
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is characterized by selective inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerves but is distinct from multiple sclerosis (MS). Interferon (IFN)-β mitigates disease activity in MS, but is controversial in NMO, with a few reports of disease worsening after IFN-β therapy in this highly active disease. In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), IFNs adversely affect disease activity. This study examines for the first time whether serum IFN-α/β activity and IFN-β-induced responses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (MNC) are abnormally elevated in NMO, as they are in SLE, but contrast to low levels in MS.
Serum type I IFN-α/β activity was measured by a previously validated bioassay of 3 IFN-stimulated genes (RT-PCR sensitivity, 0.1 U/ml) rather than ELISA, which has lower sensitivity and specificity for measuring serum IFNs. IFN responses in PBMNC were assessed by in vitro IFN-β-induced activation of phospho-tyrosine-STAT1 and phospho-serine-STAT1 transcription factors, and MxA proteins using Western blots.
Serum IFN-α/β activity was highest in SLE patients, followed by healthy subjects and NMO, but was surprisingly low in therapy-naïve MS. In functional assays in vitro, IFN-β-induced high levels of P-S-STAT1 in NMO and SLE, but not in MS and controls. IFN-β-induced MxA protein levels were elevated in NMO and SLE compared to MS.
Serum IFN activity and IFN-β-induced responses in PBMNC are elevated in SLE and NMO patients versus MS. This argues for similarities in pathophysiology between NMO and SLE and provides an explanation for IFN-induced disease worsening in NMO.
PMCID: PMC3910514  PMID: 22036215
NMO; MS; SLE; Interferon; STAT1; MxA
20.  Interferon Regulatory Factors in Human Lupus Pathogenesis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a severe multi-system autoimmune disease which results from both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many lines of investigation support interferon alpha (IFN-α) as a causal agent in human lupus, and high levels of serum IFN-α are a heritable risk factor for SLE. Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a family of transcription factors involved in host defense, which can induce transcription of IFN-α and other immune response genes following activation. In SLE, circulating immune complexes which contain nucleic acid are prevalent. These complexes are recognized by endosomal Toll-like receptors, resulting in activation of downstream IRF proteins. Genetic variants in the IRF5 and IRF7 genes have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and these same variants are associated with increased serum IFN-α in SLE patients. The increase in serum IFN-α related to IRF5 and 7 genotypes is observed only in patients with particular antibody specificities. This suggests that chronic stimulation of the endosomal Toll-like receptors by autoantibody immune complexes is required for IRF SLE-risk variants to cause elevation of circulating IFN-α and subsequent risk of SLE. Recently, genetic variation in the IRF8 gene has been associated with SLE and multiple sclerosis, and studies support an impact of IRF8 genotype on the IFN-α pathway. In summary, the SLE-associated polymorphisms in the IRF family of proteins appear to be gain-of-function variants, and understanding the impact of these variants upon the IFN-α pathway in vivo may guide therapeutic strategies directed at the Toll-like receptor/IRF/IFN-α pathway in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
21.  Familial Aggregation of Autoimmune Disease in Juvenile Dermatomyositis 
Pediatrics  2011;127(5):e1239-e1246.
Familial aggregation of autoimmune diseases likely reflects shared pathogenic factors between different diseases. Familial aggregation of autoimmunity has not been examined in juvenile dermatomyositis. Interferon-α is thought to be a pathogenic factor in both systemic lupus erythematosus and juvenile dermatomyositis, and we have previously demonstrated familial aggregation of serum interferon-α.
Family histories were obtained from 304 families of children with juvenile dermatomyositis via 3-generation structured interviews performed by the same person. Rates of autoimmune disease in families of children with juvenile dermatomyositis were compared with published population rates. Serum interferon-α, tumor necrosis factor-α, and neopterin were measured using standard techniques.
A total of 51% of families of children with juvenile dermatomyositis reported at least 1 additional member affected by an autoimmune disease. In particular, both type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus were significantly more common than would be expected (odds ratio >5, P ≤ 1 × 10−7 for both). Pedigree analysis showed particularly strong familial clustering of systemic lupus erythematosus with little decrease in incidence across generations, suggesting the possibility of rare causal genes with large effect. Untreated subjects with juvenile dermatomyositis with a family history of systemic lupus erythematosus had higher serum interferon-α than those who did not (P = .047).
We find strong familial aggregation of specific autoimmune diseases in families of children with juvenile dermatomyositis, suggesting that these conditions share pathogenic factors. Higher serum interferon-α in juvenile dermatomyositis patients with a family history of systemic lupus erythematosus suggesting that interferon-α is one such shared factor.
PMCID: PMC3081190  PMID: 21502224
juvenile dermatomyositis; systemic lupus erythematosus; diabetes mellitus type I; psoriasis; celiac disease; interferons
22.  Network Analysis of Associations between Serum Interferon Alpha Activity, Autoantibodies, and Clinical Features in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(4):1044-1053.
Interferon-alpha (IFN-α) is a primary pathogenic factor in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high IFN-α levels may be associated with particular clinical manifestations. The prevalence of individual clinical and serologic features differs significantly by ancestry. We used multivariate and network analyses to detect associations between clinical and serologic disease manifestations and serum IFN-α activity in a large diverse SLE cohort.
1089 SLE patients were studied (387 African-American, 186 Hispanic-American, and 516 European-American). Presence or absence of ACR clinical criteria for SLE, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α activity data were analyzed in univariate and multivariate models. Iterative multivariate logistic regression was performed in each background separately to establish the network of associations between variables that were independently significant following Bonferroni correction.
In all ancestral backgrounds, high IFN-α activity was associated with anti-Ro and anti-dsDNA antibodies (p-values 4.6×10−18 and 2.9 × 10−16 respectively). Younger age, non-European ancestry, and anti-RNP were also independently associated with increased serum IFN-α activity (p≤6.7×10−4). We found 14 unique associations between variables in network analysis, and only 7 of these associations were shared by more than one ancestral background. Associations between clinical criteria were different in different ancestral backgrounds, while autoantibody-IFN-α relationships were similar across backgrounds. IFN-α activity and autoantibodies were not associated with ACR clinical features in multivariate models.
Serum IFN-α activity was strongly and consistently associated with autoantibodies, and not independently associated with clinical features in SLE. IFN-α may be more relevant to humoral tolerance and initial pathogenesis than later clinical disease manifestations.
PMCID: PMC3068224  PMID: 21162028
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestry
23.  African-Derived Genetic Polymorphisms in TNFAIP3 Mediate Risk for Autoimmunity 
The TNF α-induced protein 3 (TNFAIP3) is an ubiquitin-modifying enzyme and an essential negative regulator of inflammation. Genome-wide association studies have implicated the TNFAIP3 locus in susceptibility to autoimmune disorders in European cohorts, including rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, psoriasis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There are two nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms in the deubiquitinating (DUB) domain of TNFAIP3: F127C, which is in high-linkage disequilibrium with reported SLE-risk variants, and A125V, which has not been previously studied. We conducted a case–control study in African-American SLE patients using these coding variants, along with tagging polymorphisms in TNFAIP3, and identified a novel African-derived risk haplotype that is distinct from previously reported risk variants (odds ratio = 1.6, p = 0.006). In addition, a rare protective haplotype was defined by A125V (odds ratio = 0.31, p = 0.027). Although A125V was associated with protection from SLE, surprisingly the same allele was associated with increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. We tested the functional activity of nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms within TNFAIP3, and found that the A125V coding-change variant alters the DUB activity of the protein. Finally, we used computer modeling to depict how the A125V amino acid change in TNFAIP3 may affect the three-dimensional structure of the DUB domain to a greater extent than F127C. This is the first report of an association between TNFAIP3 polymorphisms and autoimmunity in African-Americans.
PMCID: PMC3307531  PMID: 20483768
24.  Cytokines in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 2011 
PMCID: PMC3312291  PMID: 22505810
25.  Osteopontin Alleles Are Associated with Clinical Characteristics in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Variants of the osteopontin (OPN) gene have been associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility and cytokine profiles in SLE patients. It is not known whether these alleles are associated with specific clinical phenotypes in SLE. We studied 252 well-characterized SLE patients from a multiethnic cohort, genotyping the rs11730582, rs28357094, rs6532040, and rs9138 SNPs in the OPN gene. Ancestry informative markers were used to control for genetic ancestry. The SLE-risk allele rs9138C in the 3′ UTR region was associated with photosensitivity in lupus patients across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 1.6–6.5, P = 1.0 × 10−3). Additionally, the promoter variant rs11730582C demonstrated suggestive evidence for association with two hematologic traits: thrombocytopenia (OR = 2.1, P = 0.023) and hemolytic anemia (OR = 2.6, P = 0.036). These clinical associations with SNPs in the promoter and 3′ UTR regions align with previously reported SLE-susceptibility SNPs in OPN and suggest potential roles for these variants in antibody-mediated cytopenias and skin inflammation in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3205903  PMID: 22131818

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