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1.  BAFF (B cell activating factor) transcript level in peripheral blood of patients with SLE is associated with same-day disease activity as well as global activity over the next year 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2015;2(1):e000063.
Quantitating gene expression is a potential method of developing biomarkers in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Because of the known pathological role of B cell activating factor (BAFF) in SLE, we explored the association between BAFF gene expression and clinical activity in SLE.
A total of 275 patients with SLE completed this phase of a prospective observational study. At entry into the study, the BAFF gene expression levels were determined in peripheral blood RNA. Serum concentration of BAFF protein was also measured. We then determined clinical associations with SLE disease history, SLE activity on the same day and SLE activity over the course of the next year.
Elevated BAFF gene expression was associated with a history of more leucopenia and serologically with more autoantibodies (anti-dsDNA, anti-Sm, anti-Ro, anti-La and anti-RNP) and low complement. Patients with higher amounts of BAFF transcript had higher measured levels of clinical disease activity. Initial high levels of BAFF gene expression also predicted increased disease activity over the course of the next year. In contrast, serum concentration of BAFF protein was not strongly associated with same-day global disease activity or with future disease activity.
BAFF gene expression level is associated with clinical and serological SLE activity on the same day and predictive of clinical activity over the next year. BAFF gene expression is a better measure and predictor of SLE disease activity than the serum BAFF protein level.
PMCID: PMC4477150  PMID: 26113988
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Disease Activity; Cytokines
2.  Longitudinal analysis of peripheral blood T cell receptor diversity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus by next-generation sequencing 
T cells play an important role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Clonal expansion of T cells correlating with disease activity has been observed in peripheral blood (PB) of SLE subjects. Recently, next-generation sequencing (NGS) of the T cell receptor (TCR) β loci has emerged as a sensitive way to measure the T cell repertoire. In this study, we utilized NGS to assess whether changes in T cell repertoire diversity in PB of SLE patients correlate with or predict changes in disease activity.
Total RNA was isolated from the PB of 11 SLE patients. Each subject had three samples, collected at periods of clinical quiescence and at a flare. Twelve age-matched healthy controls (HC) were used for reference. NGS was used to profile the complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) of the rearranged TCR β loci.
Relative to the HC, SLE patients (at quiescence) demonstrated a 2.2-fold reduction in repertoire diversity in a given PB volume (P <0.0002), a more uneven distribution of the repertoire (Gini coefficient, HC vs SLE, P = 0.015), and a trend toward increased percentage of expanded clones in the repertoire (clone size >1.0 %, HC vs SLE, P = 0.078). No significant correlation between the overall repertoire diversity and clinical disease activity was observed for most SLE patients with only two of eleven SLE patients showing a decreasing trend in repertoire diversity approaching the flare time point. We did not observe any overlap of CDR3 amino acid sequences or a preferential Vβ or Jβ gene usage among the top 100 expanded clones from all SLE patients. In both HC and SLE, the majority of the expanded clones were remarkably stable over time (HC = 5.5 ±0.5 months, SLE = 7.2 ±2.4 months).
A significant decrease in T cell repertoire diversity was observed in PB of SLE patients compared to HC. However, in most SLE patients, repertoire diversity did not change significantly with increases in disease activity to a flare. Thus, without a priori knowledge of disease-specific clones, monitoring TCR repertoire in PB from SLE patients is not likely to be useful to predict changes in disease activity.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0655-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4458014  PMID: 26001779
3.  FcγRIIIa SNPs and haplotypes affect human IgG binding and association with lupus nephritis in African Americans 
To investigate whether the FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L polymorphism influences net effective receptor function and to assess if the FCGR3A combined genotypes formed by FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L and FcγRIIIa-176F/V as well as copy number variation (CNV) confer risk for development of SLE and lupus nephritis.
FcγRIIIa variants, expressed on A20 IIA1.6 cells, were used in flow cytometry-based human IgG binding assays. FCGR3A SNP and CNV genotypes were determined by Pyrosequencing methodology in a cohort of 1728 SLE patients and 2404 healthy controls.
The FcγRIIIa-66L/H/R (rs10127939) polymorphism influences ligand binding capacity in the context of the FcγRIIIa-176V (rs396991) allele. The low binding FcγRIIIa-176F allele was associated with SLE nephritis (p = 0.0609) in African Americans but not in European Americans (p > 0.10). Nephritis among African American SLE subjects was associated with FcγRIIIa low binding haplotypes containing the 66R/H/L and 176F variants (p = 0.03) and with low binding genotype combinations (p = 0.002). No association was observed in European American SLE patients. The distribution of FCGR3A CNV was not significantly different between controls and SLE patients with or without nephritis.
FcγRIIIa-66R/H/L influences ligand binding. The low binding haplotypes formed by 66R/H/L and 176F confer enhanced risk for lupus nephritis in African Americans. FCGR3A CNVs are not associated with SLE or SLE nephritis in either African Americans or European Americans.
PMCID: PMC4069204  PMID: 24782186
4.  Atherosclerosis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Accelerated atherosclerosis and its long-term sequelae are a major cause of late mortality among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Traditional Framingham risk factors such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and smoking do not account in entirety for this risk. SLE specific factors like disease activity and duration, use of corticosteroids, presence of antiphospholipid antibodies, and others are important risk factors. SLE is considered a coronary heart disease; equivalent and aggressive management of all traditional risk factors is recommended. Despite their role in primary and secondary prevention in the general population, statins seem to have no effect on cardiovascular outcomes in adult or pediatric SLE populations. The use of hydroxychloroquine has a cardioprotective effect, and mycophenolate mofetil may reduce cardiovascular events based on basic science data and data from the transplant population. The role of vitamin D supplementation and treatment of hyperhomocysteinemia remain controversial, but due to the safety of therapy and the potential benefit, they remain as optional therapies.
PMCID: PMC4406345  PMID: 23792700
atherosclerosis; cardiovascular disease; autoimmunity; systemic lupus erythematosus; SLE
5.  Lupus Enteritis 
We report the case of a 25-year-old Iraqi woman who had multiple hospitalizations at an outside hospital for abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea without any evidence of systemic lupus erythematosus. Laboratory investigations finally showed a positive antinuclear antibody (1280), positive anti-dsDNA, anti-β2 glycoprotein I, low complement, positive Coombs tests, and leukopenia. A kidney biopsy showed ISN class II lupus nephritis. An ileal biopsy and angiogram were unremarkable. A computed tomography showed marked and dramatic bowel edema involving the small and large bowel (“target sign”), dilatation of intestinal segments, engorgement of mesenteric vessels (“comb sign”), and increased attenuation of mesenteric fat. These cardinal signs on computed tomography scan led to the correct diagnosis of lupus enteritis. Treatment was commenced with high-dose corticosteroids followed by mycophenolate mofetil, hydroxychloroquine, and then oral cyclophosphamide, but failed. The patient was eventually treated with the Euro-Lupus intravenous cyclophosphamide regimen, which resulted in significant clinical and radiological resolution.
PMCID: PMC4404751  PMID: 23364660
lupus enteritis; SLE
6.  Diffuse Lymphadenopathy as the Presenting Manifestation of SLE 
We report the case of a 27 year old African-American man who presented with 6 months of generalized lymphadenopathy and nothing in his history or examination to suggest systemic lupus erythematosus. He was thought to have lymphoma, syphilis or tuberculosis and an extensive work up was done. Laboratory investigation finally revealed leukopenia (4.0), proteinuria (1.87grams), ANA (640 speckled), anti-dsDNA (640) , anticardiolipin IgG and IgM, anti-Smith, Coombs, anti-Ro, anti-La, CK (531U/L), aldolase (8.5 U/L), high erythrocyte sedimentation rate (130) and low complement (C3 15mg/dl and C4 3mg/dl). A kidney biopsy showed diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis, ISN class IV. Generalized lymphadenopathy as the first and only manifestation for 6 months made the diagnosis of SLE challenging. Generalized diffuse lymphadenopathy has been associated with SLE, but is much less frequent now than in the past. The differential diagnosis of lymphadenopathy relevant to rheumatologists, includes Kikuchi histiocytic necrotizing lympadenitis, Castleman disease, syphilis, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis and lymphoma.
PMCID: PMC4391510  PMID: 24048114
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Lymphadenopathy
7.  Effect of corticosteroid use by dose on the risk of developing organ damage over time in systemic lupus erythematosus—the Hopkins Lupus Cohort 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2015;2(1):e000066.
The impact of corticosteroids on the risk of organ damage in the context of clinical end points endorsed in some systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) clinical trials is underexplored.
We analysed data from the Hopkins Lupus Cohort using Cox proportional hazards models to understand the impact of exposure to different corticosteroid doses on the risk of developing any new organ damage or any new organ damage at the individual organ systems over time.
Mean prior prednisone dose, recent disease activity and immunosuppressant use during follow-up, as well as organ damage score at cohort entry, were significant independent predictors of the risk of developing any new organ damage. Even after adjustment for recent disease activity, there was a dose-response relationship across the different levels of exposure to prednisone during follow-up and the risk of developing any new organ damage. The risk more than doubled in patients exposed to a mean prior prednisone dose of ≥20 mg/day versus <7.5 mg/day (HR=2.514, p<0.001). It was estimated that a 1 mg/day increase in prior prednisone dose during follow-up was associated with a 2.8% increase in the risk of developing new organ damage. For individual organ systems, exposure to a mean prior prednisone dose of ≥7.5 mg/day versus <7.5 mg/day significantly increased the risk of developing cataracts (HR=2.41, p<0.001), osteoporotic fractures (HR=2.16, p<0.001) and cardiovascular damage (HR=1.54, p=0.041), but showed no significant difference for renal damage (HR=1.44, p=0.163) or for other individual organ systems.
Organ damage in SLE is multifactorial; corticosteroid treatment and disease activity play a role.
PMCID: PMC4378372  PMID: 25861455
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Corticosteroids; Disease Activity
8.  Lupus risk variants in the PXK locus alter B-cell receptor internalization 
Frontiers in Genetics  2015;5:450.
Genome wide association studies have identified variants in PXK that confer risk for humoral autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), rheumatoid arthritis and more recently systemic sclerosis. While PXK is involved in trafficking of epidermal growth factor Receptor (EGFR) in COS-7 cells, mechanisms linking PXK to lupus pathophysiology have remained undefined. In an effort to uncover the mechanism at this locus that increases lupus-risk, we undertook a fine-mapping analysis in a large multi-ancestral study of lupus patients and controls. We define a large (257kb) common haplotype marking a single causal variant that confers lupus risk detected only in European ancestral populations and spans the promoter through the 3′ UTR of PXK. The strongest association was found at rs6445972 with P < 4.62 × 10−10, OR 0.81 (0.75–0.86). Using stepwise logistic regression analysis, we demonstrate that one signal drives the genetic association in the region. Bayesian analysis confirms our results, identifying a 95% credible set consisting of 172 variants spanning 202 kb. Functionally, we found that PXK operates on the B-cell antigen receptor (BCR); we confirmed that PXK influenced the rate of BCR internalization. Furthermore, we demonstrate that individuals carrying the risk haplotype exhibited a decreased rate of BCR internalization, a process known to impact B cell survival and cell fate. Taken together, these data define a new candidate mechanism for the genetic association of variants around PXK with lupus risk and highlight the regulation of intracellular trafficking as a genetically regulated pathway mediating human autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4288052  PMID: 25620976
lupus; PXK; fine-mapping; B cells; BCR
9.  Lymphoma risk in systemic lupus: effects of disease activity versus treatment 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(1):10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202099.
To examine disease activity versus treatment as lymphoma risk factors in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We performed case–cohort analyses within a multisite SLE cohort. Cancers were ascertained by regional registry linkages. Adjusted HRs for lymphoma were generated in regression models, for time-dependent exposures to immunomodulators (cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, methotrexate, mycophenolate, antimalarial drugs, glucocorticoids) demographics, calendar year, Sjogren’s syndrome, SLE duration and disease activity. We used adjusted mean SLE Disease Activity Index scores (SLEDAI-2K) over time, and drugs were treated both categorically (ever/never) and as estimated cumulative doses.
We studied 75 patients with lymphoma (72 non-Hodgkin, three Hodgkin) and 4961 cancer-free controls. Most lymphomas were of B-cell origin. As is seen in the general population, lymphoma risk in SLE was higher in male than female patients and increased with age. Lymphomas occurred a mean of 12.4 years (median 10.9) after SLE diagnosis. Unadjusted and adjusted analyses failed to show a clear association of disease activity with lymphoma risk. There was a suggestion of greater exposure to cyclophosphamide and to higher cumulative steroids in lymphoma cases than the cancer-free controls.
In this large SLE sample, there was a suggestion of higher lymphoma risk with exposure to cyclophosphamide and high cumulative steroids. Disease activity itself was not clearly associated with lymphoma risk. Further work will focus on genetic profiles that might interact with medication exposure to influence lymphoma risk in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3855611  PMID: 23303389
10.  A Polymorphism in TLR2 Is Associated With Arterial Thrombosis in a Multiethnic Population of Patients With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Thrombosis is a serious complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Studies that have investigated the genetics of thrombosis in SLE are limited. We undertook this study to assess the association of previously implicated candidate genes, particularly Toll-like receptor (TLR) genes, with pathogenesis of thrombosis.
We genotyped 3,587 SLE patients from 3 multiethnic populations for 77 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 10 genes, primarily in TLRs 2, 4, 7, and 9, and we also genotyped 64 ancestry-informative markers (AIMs). We first analyzed association with arterial and venous thrombosis in the combined population via logistic regression, adjusting for top principal components of the AIMs and other covariates. We also subjected an associated SNP, rs893629, to meta-analysis (after stratification by ethnicity and study population) to confirm the association and to test for study population or ethnicity effects.
In the combined analysis, the SNP rs893629 in the KIAA0922/TLR2 region was significantly associated with arterial thrombosis (logistic P = 6.4 × 10−5, false discovery rate P = 0.0044). Two additional SNPs in TLR2 were also suggestive: rs1816702 (logistic P = 0.002) and rs4235232 (logistic P = 0.009). In the meta-analysis by study population, the odds ratio (OR) for arterial thrombosis with rs893629 was 2.44 (95% confidence interval 1.58–3.76), without evidence for heterogeneity (P = 0.78). By ethnicity, the effect was most significant among African Americans (OR 2.42, P = 3.5 × 10−4) and European Americans (OR 3.47, P = 0.024).
TLR2 gene variation is associated with thrombosis in SLE, particularly among African Americans and European Americans. There was no evidence of association among Hispanics, and results in Asian Americans were limited due to insufficient sample size. These results may help elucidate the pathogenesis of this important clinical manifestation.
PMCID: PMC4269184  PMID: 24578102
11.  Value of Isolated IgA anti-β2GPI Positivity in the Diagnosis of the Antiphospholipid Syndrome 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(12):3186-3193.
To examine the prevalence of isolated IgA anti-β2Glycoprotein I (anti-β2GPI) positivity and the association of these antibodies, and a subgroup that bind specifically to domain IV/V of β2GPI, with clinical manifestations of the Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) in three patients groups. The pathogenicity of IgA anti-β2GPI was also evaluated in a mouse model of thrombosis.
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) from a multiethnic, multicenter cohort (LUpus in MInorities, NAture versus nurture [LUMINA]) (n=558), patients with SLE from the Hopkins Lupus Cohort (n=215), and serum samples referred to the Antiphospholipid Standardization Laboratory (APLS) (n=5,098) were evaluated. IgA anti-β2GPI titers and binding to domain IV/V of β2GPI were examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). CD1 mice were inoculated with purified IgA anti- β2GPI antibodies, and surgical procedures and ELISAs were performed to evaluate thrombus development and tissue factor (TF) activity.
A total of 198 patients were found to be positive for IgA anti-β2GPI isotype, and 57 patients were positive exclusively for IgA anti-β2GPI antibodies. Of these, 13 of 23 patients (56.5%) in the LUMINA cohort, 17 of 17 patients (100%) in the Hopkins cohort, and 10 of 17 patients (58.9%) referred to APLS had at least one APS-related clinical manifestation. Fifty-four percent of all the IgA anti-β2GPI positive serum samples reacted with domain IV/V of anti-β2GPI, and 77% of those had clinical features of APS. Isolated IgA anti-β2GPI positivity was associated with an increased risk for arterial thrombosis (p<0.001), venous thrombosis (p=0.015) and all thrombosis (p<0.001). The association between isolated IgA anti-β2GPI and arterial thrombosis (p=0.0003) and all thrombosis (p=0.0003) remained significant after adjusting for other risk factors for thrombosis. In vivo mouse studies demonstrated that IgA anti-β2GPI antibodies induced significantly larger thrombi and higher TF levels compared to controls.
Isolated IgA anti-β2GPI positive titers may identify additional patients with clinical features of APS. Testing for these antibodies when other antiphospholipid (aPL) tests are negative and APS is suspected is recommended. IgA anti-β2GPI antibodies directed to domain IV/V of β2GPI represent an important subgroup of clinically relevant antiphospholipids.
PMCID: PMC4048705  PMID: 23983008
12.  Lymphotoxin-LIGHT Pathway Regulates the Interferon Signature in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112545.
A subset of patients with autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus appear to be exposed continually to interferon (IFN) as evidenced by elevated expression of IFN induced genes in blood cells. In lupus, detection of endogenous chromatin complexes by the innate sensing machinery is the suspected driver for the IFN, but the actual mechanisms remain unknown in all of these diseases. We investigated in two randomized clinical trials the effects on RA patients of baminercept, a lymphotoxin-beta receptor-immunoglobulin fusion protein that blocks the lymphotoxin-αβ/LIGHT axis. Administration of baminercept led to a reduced RNA IFN signature in the blood of patients with elevated baseline signatures. Both RA and SLE patients with a high IFN signature were lymphopenic and lymphocyte counts increased following baminercept treatment of RA patients. These data demonstrate a coupling between the lymphotoxin-LIGHT system and IFN production in rheumatoid arthritis. IFN induced retention of lymphocytes within lymphoid tissues is a likely component of the lymphopenia observed in many autoimmune diseases. NCT00664716.
PMCID: PMC4236099  PMID: 25405351
13.  Vitamin D deficiency does not predict progression of coronary artery calcium, carotid intima–media thickness or high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2013;52(11):2071-2076.
Objective. Vitamin D deficiency is common in SLE. Cardioprotective effects of vitamin D have been postulated due to modulation of inflammatory cytokines. However, the effects of vitamin D supplementation on inflammatory cytokines in trials have been inconsistent. We determined whether levels of vitamin D at baseline were associated with subclinical measures of atherosclerosis, or with changes in subclinical measures over 2 years.
Methods. Of the 200 patients enrolled in the Lupus Atherosclerosis Prevention Study, complete baseline and follow-up data [including coronary artery calcium (CAC), carotid intima–media thickness (IMT), 25-hydroxy vitamin D [25(OH)D] and high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP) levels] were available for 154 patients. Assessments were repeated 2 years later.
Results. 25(OH)D values ranged from 4 to 79 ng/ml. Among African American patients, 25(OH)D values ranged from 4 to 55 ng/ml. With low 25(OH)D (vitamin D <21 ng/ml), a higher proportion had a CAC score >100 (11%) compared with those with vitamin D insufficiency (21–32 ng/ml) (10%) and normal (≥32 ng/ml) 25(OH)D (3%), which was not statistically significant. 25(OH)D was neither associated with nor did it predict progression of CAC or carotid IMT over 2 years. The mean hsCRP decreased over 2 years.
Conclusion. 25(OH)D was not associated with any measure of subclinical atherosclerosis. 25(OH)D deficiency was associated with higher hsCRP at baseline, but did not predict a change in hsCRP over 2 years.
PMCID: PMC3798716  PMID: 23955647
systemic lupus erythematosus; atherosclerosis; vitamin D
14.  Omega-3 in SLE: a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial of endothelial dysfunction and disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Rheumatology international  2013;33(11):2789-2796.
Accelerated atherosclerosis remains a major cause of death in late systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Omega-3 has been reported to have benefit for endothelial dysfunction, one of the earliest stages of atherosclerosis, and to reduce disease activity in SLE. We performed a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of Omega-3 on endothelial function, disease activity, inflammatory markers and lipids in SLE. SLE patients (n = 85, mean age 47, 55 % Caucasian, 38 % African-American, 94 % female) were randomly assigned to 3 g of Omega-3 (Lovaza, GSK) versus placebo for 12 weeks. Endothelial function was measured at baseline and at 12 weeks using flow-mediated dilation, calculated using high-resolution B-mode ultrasound of the brachial artery diameter in response to vasoactive stimuli (hyperemia). Disease activity was measured using the physician global assessment and SELENA-SLEDAI score. Inflammatory markers (sICAM-1, sVCAM-1, IL-6) and fasting lipid profile were done at baseline and 12-week follow-up. There was no difference between the treatment groups with respect to changes in flow-mediated dilation parameters or disease activity. An average increase in LDL cholesterol of 3.11 mg/dL (±21.99) was found with Omega-3 versus a decrease of 1.87 mg/dL (±18.29) with placebo (p = 0.0266). In this trial, Omega-3 did not improve endothelial function, disease activity, nor reduce inflammatory markers in SLE. Longer trials might be required if there are delayed clinical effects. There was evidence that Omega-3 may increase LDL cholesterol, but not the LDL/HDL ratio.
PMCID: PMC3805738  PMID: 23817872
Omega-3; LDL cholesterol; Flow-mediated dilation; Systemic lupus erythematosus
15.  Non-Lymphoma Hematological Malignancies in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Oncology  2013;85(4):10.1159/000350165.
To describe non-lymphoma hematological malignancies in SLE.
A large SLE cohort was linked to cancer registries. We examined the types of non-lymphoma hematological cancers.
In 16, 409 patients, 115 hematological cancers (including myelodysplastic syndrome) occurred. Among these, 33 were non-lymphoma. Of the 33 non-lymphoma cases, 13 were of lymphoid lineage: multiple myeloma (N=5), plasmacytoma (N=3), B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-CLL (N=3), precursor cell lymphoblastic leukemia (N=1), and unspecified lymphoid leukemia (N=1). The remaining 20 cases were of myeloid lineage: myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS (N=7), acute myeloid leukemia, AML (N=7), chronic myeloid leukemia, CML (N=2), and 4 unspecified leukemias. Most of these malignancies occurred in female Caucasians, except for plasma cell neoplasms (4/5 multiple myeloma and 1/3 plasmacytoma cases occurred in blacks).
In this large SLE cohort, the most common non-lymphoma hematological malignancies were myeloid types (MDS and AML). This contrasts to the general population, where lymphoid types are 1.7 times more common than myeloid non-lymphoma hematological malignancies. Most (80%) multiple myeloma cases occurred in blacks, which requires further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3880772  PMID: 24107608
Systemic lupus erythematosus; malignancy; cancer
18.  Predictors of self-reported health-related quality of life in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Rheumatology (Oxford, England)  2013;52(9):1651-1657.
Objective. The Medical Outcomes Short Form-36 Survey (SF-36) has been widely used as a measure of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in different populations. SLE patients have consistently reported lower scores compared with the general population. The objective of our study was to identify predictors of HRQOL using SF-36 among patients with SLE enrolled in a 2-year randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Methods. We analysed 200 SLE patients enrolled in the Lupus Atherosclerosis Prevention Study (LAPS), an RCT of atorvastatin vs placebo, who completed SF-36 at qualifying, 12- and 24-month (final) visits.
Results. At baseline, mean SF-36 domain scores were lower than those of age- and gender-matched population norms. There was no statistical difference reported between Physical Component Summary (PCS), Mental Component Summary and eight domain scores in the atorvastatin vs placebo group at 2 years. In multiple regression analyses, African American patients reported significantly lower scores in Physical Functioning compared with Caucasians. The presence of FM was significantly associated with lower scores in physical functioning, role physical, bodily pain, general health, vitality, social functioning and lower overall mean PCS scores. The Physician’s Global Assessment of disease activity was associated with multiple SF-36 domains in univariate analysis.
Conclusion. This longitudinal study confirmed lower scores reported across all SF-36 domains. No one explanatory variable was independently associated with all domain scores. FM was independently associated with poorer HRQOL in most domains, underscoring the need for effective treatments for FM in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3741477  PMID: 23681396
SLE; SF-36; HRQOL; fibromyalgia; statins; disease activity; PCS; MCS; disease activity indices; spydergram
19.  Vitamin D in SLE: Modest Association with Disease Activity and Urine Protein/Creatinine Ratio 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(7):1865-1871.
We investigated whether an increase in vitamin D levels in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus was associated with improvement in disease activity.
1006 SLE patients were followed over 128 weeks. SLE patients with low levels of 25-hydroxy Vitamin D (<40 ng/mL) were supplemented with 50,000 units Vitamin D2 weekly, with Ca/D3 200 units twice daily. Longitudinal regression models were used to estimate the association between levels of vitamin D and various measures of disease activity.
The SLE patients were 91% female, mean age 49.6, 54% Caucasian, 37% African-American and 8% other ethnicity. For those with low 25-hydroxy Vitamin D (<40 ng/mL), a 20 unit increase in 25-hydroxy Vitamin D was associated with a decrease in mean SELENA-SLEDAI by 0.22 (CI: −0.41, −0.02) (p= 0.032). This corresponded with a 21% decrease in the odds of having a SELENA-SLEDAI higher than 4 (CI: 1%, 37%). Mean urine protein-to-creatinine ratio decreased 2% (CI: −0.03, −0.01) (p=0.009), corresponding to a 15% decrease in the odds of having a ratio of 0.5 or greater (CI: 2%, 27%).
We found that a 20 ng/mL increase in vitamin D was associated with a 21% decrease in the odds of having a high activity score and a 15% decrease in the odds of having clinically important proteinuria. Though these associations were statistically significant, the clinical importance is relatively modest. There was no evidence of additional benefit beyond a level of 40 ng/mL.
PMCID: PMC3701725  PMID: 23553077
Vitamin D; Disease activity; Proteinuria; Systemic lupus Erythematosus
20.  Clinical, laboratory and health-related quality of life correlates of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Responder Index response: a post hoc analysis of the phase 3 belimumab trials 
Lupus Science & Medicine  2014;1(1):e000031.
Correlates of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) Responder Index (SRI) response with clinical trial end points were examined using pooled data from the Study of Belimumab in Subjects with SLE (BLISS) trials (N=1684).
Changes in clinical, laboratory and health-related quality of life measures from baseline at 52 weeks were compared between SRI responders (n=761) and non-responders (n=923).
More SRI responders than non-responders had ≥4-point (100% vs 3.8%) and ≥7-point (40.3% vs 1.3%) Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment-Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index reductions, no new British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) A and ≤1 new B scores (91.9% vs 35.9%), and a 25% reduction in corticosteroid dose decrease of 25% from >7.5 mg/d to ≤7.5 mg/d (25.5% vs 13.9%), and fewer had a corticosteroid increase from ≤7.5 mg/d to >7.5 mg/d (4.1% vs 21.3%; all p<0.001). More responders than non-responders had improved organ domains: Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment-Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (mean 1.45 vs 0.40), BILAG (2.00 vs 0.39), and greater improvement in Physician's Global Assessment (all p<0.001). Risks for developing any SLE flare or severe flare were reduced in responders by 42% and 87%, respectively (p<0.001). Responders reported greater improvements in Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form version 2 Physical and Mental Components and all domain scores, and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue score compared with non-responders (all p<0.001).
Overall, SRI response in patients with active, autoantibody-positive SLE was associated with improvements in clinical, laboratory and patient-reported outcome measures, indicating that SRI response was associated with a global benefit.
Trial registration number
NCT00424476; NCT00410384.
PMCID: PMC4225741  PMID: 25396065
Belimumab; Bilag; Facit-Fatigue; Health-Related Quality of Life; PGA
21.  Allelic Dependent Expression of an Activating Fc receptor on B cells Enhances Humoral Immune Responses 
Science translational medicine  2013;5(216):216ra175.
B cells are pivotal regulators of acquired immune responses and recent work in both experimental murine models and humans has demonstrated that subtle changes in the regulation of B cell function can significantly alter immunological responses. The balance of negative and positive signals in maintaining an appropriate B cell activation threshold is critical in B lymphocyte immune tolerance and autoreactivity. FcγRIIb (CD32B), the only recognized Fcγ receptor on B cells, provides IgG-mediated negative modulation through a tyrosine-based inhibition motif which down-regulates B cell receptor initiated signaling. These properties make FcγRIIb a promising target for antibody-based therapy. Here we report the discovery of allele-dependent expression of the activating FcγRIIc on B cells. Identical to FcγRIIb in the extracellular domain, FcγRIIc has a tyrosine-based activation motif in its cytoplasmic domain. In both human B cells and in B cells from mice transgenic for human FcγRIIc, FcγRIIc expression counterbalances the negative feedback of FcγRIIb and enhances humoral responses to immunization in mice and to BioThrax® vaccination in a human Anthrax vaccine trial. Moreover, the FCGR2C-ORF allele is associated with the risk of development of autoimmunity in humans. FcγRIIc expression on B cells challenges the prevailing paradigm of uni-directional negative feedback by IgG immune complexes via the inhibitory FcγRIIb, is a previously unrecognized determinant in human antibody/autoantibody responses, and opens the opportunity for more precise personalized use of B cell targeted antibody-based therapy.
PMCID: PMC3982386  PMID: 24353158
22.  Managing lupus patients during pregnancy 
Best practice & research. Clinical rheumatology  2013;27(3):10.1016/j.berh.2013.07.005.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, primarily affecting young females. Pregnancy in a woman with SLE remains a high risk situation with higher maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity. Although live births are achieved in majority of the pregnancies, active disease and major organ involvement can negatively affect the outcomes. Higher risk of fetal loss, pre-term birth, intra-uterine growth restriction and neonatal lupus syndromes are major fetal issues. Mothers are faced with disease flares, pre-eclampsia and other complications. Disease flares during SLE pregnancy pose the unique issue of recognition and differentiation between physiologic changes and disease state. Similarly pre-eclampsia and lupus nephritis may lead to diagnostic confusion. Treatment choices during pregnancy are limited to a few safe drugs, further restricting the options. Refractory pregnancy loss associated with anti-phospholipid antibodies and complete heart block associated with anti-Ro antibodies remain unresolved issues. A multidisciplinary approach, with close monitoring, is essential for optimal outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3834352  PMID: 24238698
Systemic lupus erythematosus; anti-phospholipid antibodies; pregnancy; fetal loss; pre-eclampsia; neonatal lupus syndromes
23.  The SLE Transcriptome Exhibits Evidence of Chronic Endotoxin Exposure and Has Widespread Dysregulation of Non-Coding and Coding RNAs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e93846.
Gene expression studies of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have demonstrated a type I interferon signature and increased expression of inflammatory cytokine genes. Studies of patients with Aicardi Goutières syndrome, commonly cited as a single gene model for SLE, have suggested that accumulation of non-coding RNAs may drive some of the pathologic gene expression, however, no RNA sequencing studies of SLE patients have been performed. This study was designed to define altered expression of coding and non-coding RNAs and to detect globally altered RNA processing in SLE.
Purified monocytes from eight healthy age/gender matched controls and nine SLE patients (with low-moderate disease activity and lack of biologic drug use or immune suppressive treatment) were studied using RNA-seq. Quantitative RT-PCR was used to validate findings. Serum levels of endotoxin were measured by ELISA.
We found that SLE patients had diminished expression of most endogenous retroviruses and small nucleolar RNAs, but exhibited increased expression of pri-miRNAs. Splicing patterns and polyadenylation were significantly altered. In addition, SLE monocytes expressed novel transcripts, an effect that was replicated by LPS treatment of control monocytes. We further identified increased circulating endotoxin in SLE patients.
Monocytes from SLE patients exhibit globally dysregulated gene expression. The transcriptome is not simply altered by the transcriptional activation of a set of genes, but is qualitatively different in SLE. The identification of novel loci, inducible by LPS, suggests that chronic microbial translocation could contribute to the immunologic dysregulation in SLE, a new potential disease mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4010412  PMID: 24796678
24.  Cancer risk in systemic lupus: An updated international multi-centre cohort study 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;42:130-135.
To update estimates of cancer risk in SLE relative to the general population.
A multisite international SLE cohort was linked with regional tumor registries. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) were calculated as the ratio of observed to expected cancers.
Across 30 centres, 16,409 patients were observed for 121,283 (average 7.4) person-years. In total, 644 cancers occurred. Some cancers, notably hematologic malignancies, were substantially increased (SIR 3.02, 95% confidence interval, CI, 2.48, 3.63), particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL (SIR 4.39, 95% CI 3.46, 5.49) and leukemia. In addition, increased risks of cancer of the vulva (SIR 3.78, 95% CI 1.52, 7.78), lung (SIR 1.30, 95% CI 1.04, 1.60), thyroid (SIR 1.76, 95% CI 1.13, 2.61) and possibly liver (SIR 1.87, 95% CI 0.97, 3.27) were suggested. However, a decreased risk was estimated for breast (SIR 0.73, 95% CI 0.61–0.88), endometrial (SIR 0.44, 95% CI 0.23–0.77), and possibly ovarian cancers (0.64, 95% CI 0.34–1.10). The variability of comparative rates across different cancers meant that only a small increased risk was estimated across all cancers (SIR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05, 1.23).
These data estimate only a small increased risk in SLE (versus the general population) for cancer over-all. However, there is clearly an increased risk of NHL, and cancers of the vulva, lung, thyroid, and possibly liver. It remains unclear to what extent the association with NHL is mediated by innate versus exogenous factors. Similarly, the etiology of the decreased breast, endometrial, and possibly ovarian cancer risk is uncertain, though investigations are ongoing.
PMCID: PMC3646904  PMID: 23410586
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Epidemiology; Treatment; Disease Activity
25.  End-Stage Renal Disease in African Americans With Lupus Nephritis Is Associated With APOL1 
Lupus nephritis (LN) is a severe manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that exhibits familial aggregation and may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). LN is more prevalent among African Americans than among European Americans. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) nephropathy risk alleles G1/G2, common in African Americans and rare in European Americans, contribute to the ethnic disparity in risk.
APOL1 G1 and G2 nephropathy alleles were genotyped in 855 African American SLE patients with LN-ESRD (cases) and 534 African American SLE patients without nephropathy (controls) and tested for association under a recessive genetic model, by logistic regression.
Ninety percent of the SLE patients were female. The mean ± SD age at SLE diagnosis was significantly lower in LN-ESRD cases than in SLE non-nephropathy controls (27.3 ± 10.9 years versus 39.5 ± 12.2 years). The mean ± SD time from SLE diagnosis to development of LN-ESRD in cases was 7.3 ± 7.2 years. The G1/G2 risk alleles were strongly associated with SLE-ESRD, with 25% of cases and 12% of controls having 2 nephropathy alleles (odds ratio [OR] 2.57, recessive model P = 1.49 × 10−9), and after adjustment for age, sex, and ancestry admixture (OR 2.72, P = 6.23 × 10−6). The age-, sex-, and admixture-adjusted population attributable risk for ESRD among patients with G1/G2 polymorphisms was 0.26, compared to 0.003 among European American patients. The mean time from SLE diagnosis to ESRD development was ~2 years earlier among individuals with APOL1 risk genotypes (P = 0.01).
APOL1 G1/G2 alleles strongly impact the risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans, as well as the time to progression to ESRD. The high frequency of these alleles in African Americans with near absence in European Americans explains an important proportion of the increased risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans.
PMCID: PMC4002759  PMID: 24504811

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