Accelerated atherosclerosis is a major cause of mortality in SLE. Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) has been shown to suppress growth factor-induced proliferation of vascular smooth muscle and endothelial cells in animal models. We hypothesized that MMF might modify the inflammatory component of atherosclerosis in SLE. We examined the effect of MMF on atherosclerosis as measured by changes in carotid intima–media thickness (IMT) or coronary artery calcium (CAC) over 2 years. CAC and carotid IMT were measured at baseline and 2 years later in a cohort of 187 patients with SLE. The cohort was 91% women, 59% Caucasian, and 35% African-American, with a mean age of 45 ± 11 years. Of these, 12.5% (n = 25) received MMF during follow-up. The daily dose ranged from 500 to 3,000 mg/day, and duration ranged from 84 days to the entire 2 years. We divided MMF users into three groups: low exposure (<1,500 mg average daily dose), high exposure (≥1,500 average daily dose), and any exposure of MMF (<1,500 or ≥1,500 average daily dose) for 2 years. The mean CAC increased in all four groups: no MMF: 1.17–1.28, low MMF: 1.02–1.13, high MMF: 1.44–1.61, and any MMF: 1.21–1.34 log-Agatston units. Compared to no MMF, there was no statistically different change between the three groups (p = 0.99, 0.87, and 0.91). Similarly, mean carotid IMT increased in all four groups: no MMF: 0.58–0.66, low MMF: 0.55–0.60, high MMF: 0.56–0.71, and any MMF: 0.56–0.66. We then adjusted for statin use, lupus nephritis, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and age during the 2-year follow-up. The association between MMF exposure and change in CAC or carotid IMT was not statistically significant (p = 0.63 for CAC, and p = 0.085 for carotid IMT). There was no evidence that MMF slowed or decreased the progression of atherosclerosis as measured by carotid IMT or CAC. Because the number of patients taking MMF was only twenty-five, larger studies for longer time periods are needed to explore any effect of MMF on subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE.
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Mycophenolate mofetil; Atherosclerosis
To determine whether there is any seasonal variation in the activity of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) overall and by individual organs.
The study group comprised 2102 patients with SLE who were followed in a prospective longitudinal cohort study. In this cohort, 92.3% of the patients were women. The mean ± SD age of the patients was 47.9 ± 13.9 years, 56.3% were white, 37.1% were African American, and 3.1% were Asian. Global disease activity was recorded by the Safety of Estrogens in Lupus Erythematosus National Assessment – Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SELENA-SLEDAI) and the physician's global assessment. Activity of each organ was also recorded using SLEDAI terms and a visual analog scale (VAS; 0 to 3).
There was significant seasonal variation in photosensitive rash (p < 0.0001), which was more frequent in the spring and summer months (p < 0.0001). There was significantly more arthritis activity in spring and summer, as measured by both SELENA-SLEDAI (p = 0.0057) and the joint VAS (p = 0.0047). A decrease in renal activity was found in the summer months compared to the rest of the year (p = 0.0397). Serositis recorded by VAS had higher activity from August to October (p = 0.0392). Anti-dsDNA levels were significantly higher during October and November (p < 0.0001). There was significant seasonal variation in antiphospholipid antibody levels (p < 0.0001) and lupus anticoagulant (p = 0.0003). We found a significant variation in activity through the year in global disease activity as measured by SELENA-SLEDAI (p = 0.048).
In the Hopkins Lupus Cohort, skin and joint activity is increased during the spring and summer, but other organs have different patterns. These seasonal variations likely reflect environmental factors that influence disease activity, including ultraviolet light and infections.
SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS; DISEASE ACTIVITY; SEASONAL VARIATION
Accelerated atherosclerosis is a major cause of death in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), yet little is known about the effect of socioeconomic status. We investigated whether education or income levels are associated with cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes in SLE.
Our study involved a longitudinal cohort of all patients with SLE enrolled in the Hopkins Lupus Cohort from 1987 through September 2011. Socioeconomic status was measured by education level (≥ 12 years or < 12) and income tertiles (> $60,000, $25,000–$60,000, or < $25,000).
A total of 1752 patients with SLE were followed prospectively every 3 months. There were 1052 whites and 700 African Americans. Current smoking, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus were more common in African Americans (p < 0.01 for all), but there was no statistical difference in the frequency of myocardial infarction or stroke. In multivariate analyses stratified by ethnicity, low income was strongly associated with most traditional cardiovascular risk factors in whites, but only with smoking and diabetes in African Americans. In whites, low income increased the risk of both myocardial infarction (OR 3.24, 95% CI 1.41–7.45, p = 0.006) and stroke (OR 2.85, 95% CI 1.56–5.21, p = 0.001); in African Americans, these relationships were not seen. Low education, in contrast, was associated with smoking in both ethnic groups.
Low income, not low education, is the socioeconomic status variable associated with cardiovascular risk factors and events. This association is most clearly demonstrable in whites.
SYSTEMIC LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS; SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS; EDUCATION INCOME; CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE; MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION
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
The Xq28 region containing IRAK1 and MECP2 has been identified as a risk locus for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in previous genetic association studies. However, due to the strong linkage disequilibrium between IRAK1 and MECP2, it remains unclear which gene is affected by the underlying causal variant(s) conferring risk of SLE.
We fine-mapped ≥136 SNPs in a ~227kb region on Xq28, containing IRAK1, MECP2 and 7 adjacent genes (L1CAM, AVPR2, ARHGAP4, NAA10, RENBP, HCFC1 and TMEM187), for association with SLE in 15,783 case-control subjects derived from 4 different ancestral groups.
Multiple SNPs showed strong association with SLE in European Americans, Asians and Hispanics at P<5×10−8 with consistent association in subjects with African ancestry. Of these, 6 SNPs located in the TMEM187-IRAK1-MECP2 region captured the underlying causal variant(s) residing in a common risk haplotype shared by all 4 ancestral groups. Among them, rs1059702 best explained the Xq28 association signals in conditional testings and exhibited the strongest P value in trans-ancestral meta-analysis (Pmeta=1.3×10−27, OR=1.43), and thus was considered to be the most-likely causal variant. The risk allele of rs1059702 results in the amino acid substitution S196F in IRAK1 and had previously been shown to increase NF-κB activity in vitro. We also found that the homozygous risk genotype of rs1059702 was associated with lower mRNA levels of MECP2, but not IRAK1, in SLE patients (P=0.0012) and healthy controls (P=0.0064).
These data suggest contributions of both IRAK1 and MECP2 to SLE susceptibility.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Polymorphism; Xq28; IRAK1; MECP2
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease with a strong genetic component. African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of SLE, but the genetic basis of this risk is largely unknown. To identify causal variants in SLE loci in AA, we performed admixture mapping followed by fine mapping in AA and European-Americans (EA). Through genome-wide admixture mapping in AA, we identified a strong SLE susceptibility locus at 2q22–24 (LOD = 6.28), and the admixture signal is associated with the European ancestry (ancestry risk ratio ∼1.5). Large-scale genotypic analysis on 19,726 individuals of African and European ancestry revealed three independently associated variants in the IFIH1 gene: an intronic variant, rs13023380 [Pmeta = 5.20×10−14; odds ratio, 95% confidence interval = 0.82 (0.78–0.87)], and two missense variants, rs1990760 (Ala946Thr) [Pmeta = 3.08×10−7; 0.88 (0.84–0.93)] and rs10930046 (Arg460His) [Pdom = 1.16×10−8; 0.70 (0.62–0.79)]. Both missense variants produced dramatic phenotypic changes in apoptosis and inflammation-related gene expression. We experimentally validated function of the intronic SNP by DNA electrophoresis, protein identification, and in vitro protein binding assays. DNA carrying the intronic risk allele rs13023380 showed reduced binding efficiency to a cellular protein complex including nucleolin and lupus autoantigen Ku70/80, and showed reduced transcriptional activity in vivo. Thus, in SLE patients, genetic susceptibility could create a biochemical imbalance that dysregulates nucleolin, Ku70/80, or other nucleic acid regulatory proteins. This could promote antibody hypermutation and auto-antibody generation, further destabilizing the cellular network. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
African-Americans (AA) are at increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the genetic basis of this risk increase is largely unknown. We used admixture mapping to localize disease-causing genetic variants that differ in frequency across populations. This approach is advantageous for localizing susceptibility genes in recently admixed populations like AA. Our genome-wide admixture scan identified seven admixture signals, and we followed the best signal at 2q22–24 with fine-mapping, imputation-based association analysis and experimental validation. We identified two independent coding variants and a non-coding variant within the IFIH1 gene associated with SLE. Together with molecular modeling, our results establish a distinct role for IFIH1 in apoptosis, inflammation, and autoantibody production, and explain the molecular basis of these three risk alleles for SLE pathogenesis.
Several confirmed genetic susceptibility loci for lupus have been described. To date, no clear evidence for genetic epistasis is established in lupus. We test for gene-gene interactions in a number of known lupus susceptibility loci.
Eighteen SNPs tagging independent and confirmed lupus susceptibility loci were genotyped in a set of 4,248 lupus patients and 3,818 normal healthy controls of European descent. Epistasis was tested using a 2-step approach utilizing both parametric and non-parametric methods. The false discovery rate (FDR) method was used to correct for multiple testing.
We detected and confirmed gene-gene interactions between the HLA region and CTLA4, IRF5, and ITGAM, and between PDCD1 and IL21 in lupus patients. The most significant interaction detected by parametric analysis was between rs3131379 in the HLA region and rs231775 in CTLA4 (Interaction odds ratio=1.19, z-score= 3.95, P= 7.8×10−5 (FDR≤0.05), PMDR= 5.9×10−45). Importantly, our data suggest that in lupus patients the presence of the HLA lupus-risk alleles in rs1270942 and rs3131379 increases the odds of also carrying the lupus-risk allele in IRF5 (rs2070197) by 17% and 16%, respectively (P= 0.0028 and 0.0047).
We provide evidence for gene-gene epistasis in systemic lupus erythematosus. These findings support a role for genetic interaction contributing to the complexity of lupus heritability.
Despite the recognized risk of accelerated atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), little is known about cardiovascular risk management in contemporary cohorts of these patients. We tested the hypotheses that major modifiable cardiovascular risk factors were more frequent and rates of treatment, detection, and control were lower in patients with RA than in non-RA controls.
The prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, elevated body mass index, smoking, moderate-high 10-year cardiovascular risk and the rates of underdiagnosis, therapeutic treatment, and recommended management were compared in 197 RA patients and 274 frequency-matched control subjects, and their associations with clinical characteristics were examined.
Eighty percent of RA patients and 81% of control subjects had at least 1 modifiable traditional cardiovascular risk factor. Hypertension was more prevalent in the RA group (57%) than in controls [42%, P =0.001]. There were no statistically significant differences in the frequency of diabetes, elevated body mass index, smoking, intermediate-high 10-year coronary heart disease risk, or elevated LDL in patients with RA versus controls. Rates of newly identified diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia were similar in RA patients versus controls. Rates of therapeutic interventions were low in both groups but their use was associated with well-controlled blood pressure (OR = 4.55, 95% CI: 1.70, 12.19) and lipid levels (OR = 9.90, 95% CI: 3.30, 29.67).
Hypertension is more common in RA than in controls. Other traditional cardiovascular risk factors are highly prevalent, underdiagnosed, and poorly controlled in patients with RA, as well as controls.
rheumatoid arthritis; cardiovascular risk; epidemiology
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and autoimmune diseases (ADs) are the first and third highest causes of death in the USA, respectively. Men have an increased incidence of the majority of CVDs, including atherosclerosis, myocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy and heart failure. By contrast, nearly 80% of all ADs occur in women. However, in one category of ADs, rheumatic diseases, CVD is the main cause of death. Factors that link rheumatic ADs to CVD are inflammation and the presence of autoantibodies. In this review we will examine recent findings regarding sex differences in the immunopathogenesis of CVD and ADs, explore possible reasons for the increased occurrence of CVD within rheumatic ADs and discuss whether autoantibodies, including rheumatoid factor, could be involved in disease pathogenesis.
autoimmune disease; cardiovascular disease; pathogenesis; rheumatic disease; sex differences
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with diverse clinical manifestations characterized by the development of pathogenic autoantibodies manifesting in inflammation of target organs such as the kidneys, skin and joints. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants in the UBE2L3 region that are associated with SLE in subjects of European and Asian ancestry. UBE2L3 encodes an ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UBCH7, involved in cell proliferation and immune function. In this study, we sought to further characterize the genetic association in the region of UBE2L3 and use molecular methods to determine the functional effect of the risk haplotype. We identified significant associations between variants in the region of UBE2L3 and SLE in individuals of European and Asian ancestry that exceeded a Bonferroni corrected threshold (P < 1 × 10−4). A single risk haplotype was observed in all associated populations. Individuals harboring the risk haplotype display a significant increase in both UBE2L3 mRNA expression (P = 0.0004) and UBCH7 protein expression (P = 0.0068). The results suggest that variants carried on the SLE associated UBE2L3 risk haplotype influence autoimmunity by modulating UBCH7 expression.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; UBE2L3; Multi Ethnic Association Study; UBCH7 Expression
Objectives. Cardiovascular disease remains the major cause of death in SLE. We assessed the degree to which cardiovascular risk factors (CVRFs) and disease activity were associated with 2-year changes in measures of subclinical atherosclerosis.
Methods. One hundred and eighty-seven SLE patients participating in a placebo-controlled trial of atorvastatin underwent multi-detector CT [for coronary artery calcium (CAC)] and carotid duplex [for carotid intima–media thickness (IMT) and carotid plaque] twice, 2 years apart. During the 2 years, patients were assessed every 3 months for CVRF. Both groups were combined for analysis, as atorvastatin did not differ from placebo in preventing progression of coronary calcium. We examined the correlation between these clinical measures and progression of CAC, IMT and plaque during the follow-up period.
Results. In an analysis adjusting for age, gender and ethnicity, CAC progression was positively associated with total serum cholesterol measured over the 2-year period (P = 0.04) and smoking (P = 0.003). Carotid IMT progression was associated with systolic BP (P = 0.003), high-sensitivity CRP (hsCRP) (P = 0.013) and white blood cell (WBC) count (P = 0.029). Carotid plaque progression, defined as patients without carotid plaque at baseline with subsequent development of plaque at follow-up, was associated with systolic BP (P = 0.003), WBC count (P = 0.02), physician's global assessment (P = 0.05), blood lymphocyte count (P = 0.048), urine protein (P = 0.017) and duration of SLE (P = 0.019).
Conclusion. Our data did not provide evidence of an association between measures of SLE disease activity (SLEDAI, anti-dsDNA, anti-phospholipid and treatment) and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis. Age and hypertension were associated with the progression of carotid IMT and plaque. Age, smoking and cholesterol were associated with progression of CAC.
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Helical computed tomography; Coronary artery calcium; Carotid intima–media thickness; Carotid plaque; Inflammation; Atherosclerosis; Carotid duplex; Coronary artery disease; Statins
Candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have identified several disease susceptibility loci in lupus patients. These studies have been largely performed in European-derived and Asian lupus patients. In this study, we examine if some of these same susceptibility loci increase lupus risk in African-American individuals.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms tagging 15 independent lupus susceptibility loci were genotyped in a set of 1,724 lupus patients and 2,024 normal healthy controls of African-American descent. The loci examined included: PTPN22, FCGR2A, TNFSF4, STAT4, CTLA4, PDCD1, PXK, BANK1, MSH5 (HLA region), CFB (HLA region), C8orf13-BLK region, MBL2, KIAA1542, ITGAM, and MECP2/IRAK1.
We provide the first evidence for genetic association between lupus and five susceptibility loci in African-American patients (C8orf13-BLK, BANK1, TNFSF4, KIAA1542 andCTLA4; P values= 8.0 × 10−6, 1.9 × 10−5, 5.7 × 10−5, 0.00099, 0.0045, respectively). Further, we confirm the genetic association between lupus and five additional lupus susceptibility loci (ITGAM, MSH5, CFB, STAT4, and FCGR2A; P values= 7.5 × 10−11, 5.2 × 10−8, 8.7 × 10−7, 0.0058, and 0.0070, respectively), and provide evidence for a genome-wide significance for the association between ITGAM and MSH5 (HLA region) for the first time in African-American lupus patients.
These findings provide evidence for novel genetic susceptibility loci for lupus in African-Americans and demonstrate that the majority of lupus susceptibility loci examined confer lupus risk across multiple ethnicities.
To explore predictors of change in measures of carotid atherosclerosis among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients without known cardiovascular disease (CVD) at baseline
RA patients underwent carotid ultrasonography at two timepoints, separated by an average of 3.2 ± 0.3 years. The associations of baseline and average patient characteristics with the average yearly change in mean maximal intima-medial thickness (IMT) of the common (CCA) and internal carotid arteries (ICA), and with incident or progressive plaque in the ICA/carotid bulb, were explored.
Among the 158 RA patients, maxCCA-IMT increased in 82% (median=16 μm/year; p<0.001) and maxICA-IMT increased in 70% (median=25 μm/year; p<0.001). Incident plaque was observed in 14% without baseline plaque [incidence rate=4.2/100 person-years (95% CI 1.61–6.82)]. Plaque progression was observed in 5% with baseline plaque. Among RA predictors, the adjusted average yearly change in maxCCA-IMT was significantly greater in patients with earlier RA vs. longer disease. Those prescribed TNF inhibitors at baseline had a 37% lower adjusted rate of maxCCA-IMT progression vs. non-users (14 vs. 22 μm/year; p=0.026). For maxICA-IMT, cumulative prednisone exposure was associated with progression [1.2 μm/year per gram (95% CI 0.1–2.4)] after adjustment, and was lower in patients prescribed statins concomitant with prednisone. Higher swollen joint count and higher average CRP were both associated with incident or progressive plaque, primarily in patients with elevated baseline CVD risk based on the Framingham score.
These prospective data provide evidence for inflammation as a contributor to subclinical atherosclerosis progression in RA, potentially modified favorably by TNF inhibitors and detrimentally by glucocorticoids.
Atherosclerosis; Inflammation; prediction; carotid ultrasound
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE; OMIM 152700) is a chronic autoimmune disease for which the aetiology includes genetic and environmental factors. ITGAM, integrin αΜ (complement component 3 receptor 3 subunit) encoding a ligand for intracellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) proteins, is an established SLE susceptibility locus. This study aimed to evaluate the independent and joint effects of genetic variations in the genes that encode ITGAM and ICAM.
The authors examined several markers in the ICAM1–ICAM4–ICAM5 locus on chromosome 19p13 and the single ITGAM polymorphism (rs1143679) using a large-scale case–control study of 17 481 unrelated participants from four ancestry populations. The single marker association and gene–gene interaction were analysed for each ancestry, and a meta-analysis across the four ancestries was performed.
The A-allele of ICAM1–ICAM4–ICAM5 rs3093030, associated with elevated plasma levels of soluble ICAM1, and the A-allele of ITGAM rs1143679 showed the strongest association with increased SLE susceptibility in each of the ancestry populations and the trans-ancestry meta-analysis (ORmeta=1.16, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.22; p=4.88×10−10 and ORmeta=1.67, 95% CI 1.55 to 1.79; p=3.32×10−46, respectively). The effect of the ICAM single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was independent of the effect of the ITGAM SNP rs1143679, and carriers of both ICAM rs3093030-AA and ITGAM rs1143679-AA had an OR of 4.08 compared with those with no risk allele in either SNP (95% CI 2.09 to 7.98; p=3.91×10−5).
These findings are the first to suggest that an ICAM–integrin-mediated pathway contributes to susceptibility to SLE.
Cognitive impairment affects up to 80% of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients within ten years of diagnosis. Memantine, a seronergic receptor and nicotine acetylcholine receptor antagonist, acts on the glutamatergic system through the NMDA receptor, and is used to treat dementia. We investigated whether it had benefit for SLE cognitive impairment.
A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled single center 12 week trial of memantine titrated to 20mg/day was performed, using a 2:1 randomization ratio, in 51 SLE patients. The primary outcome measures were change in the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) throughput scores at 12 weeks.
There were no statistically significant differences between treatment groups on change from baseline in any of the ANAM throughput scores at 6 or 12 weeks. For the ACR cognitive battery, the only statistically significant finding was for the Controlled Oral Word Association Test - S words at 6 and 12 weeks. At 12 weeks, the memantine group exhibited greater improvement compared to the placebo group (3.6 ±1.8 vs. 0.5 ± 3.8 words, p=0.03). In a subset analysis limited to patients that scored ≥ 1 standard deviation below normal controls at baseline, no significant differences between treatment groups were found.
In this first clinical trial of memantine in SLE, patients treated with memantine did not exhibit significant improvement in cognitive performance compared to the placebo group, regardless of the degree of impairment at baseline, with the exception of controlled oral word association.
SLE; cognitive impairment; memantine
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with central nervous system (CNS) involvement is frequent and can have high morbidity. The primary pathophysiology of SLE in the CNS is thought to be inflammation secondary to autoantibody-mediated vasculitis. Neuroimaging studies have reported hypometabolism (impending cell failure) and atrophy (late-stage pathology), but not inflammation. We used a validated index of SLE-related disease activity as a regressor for positron emission tomographic (PET) images of glucose uptake to detect the presence and regional distribution of inflammation (hypermetabolism) and tissue failure, apoptosis or atrophy (hypometabolism).
Eighty-five newly diagnosed SLE patients without focal neurological symptoms were studied. Disease activity was quantified using the SELENA SLE Disease Activity Index (SS). 18Fluoro-deoxy-glucose (FDG) PET images were analyzed by visual inspection and as group statistical parametric images using the SS score as the analysis regressor.
SS-correlated increases in glucose uptake were found throughout the white matter, most marked in heavily myelinated tracts. SS-correlated decreases were found in frontal and parietal cortex, in a pattern similar to that seen by visual inspection and in prior reports of hypometabolism.
We interpret the SS-correlated increases in glucose consumption as potential evidence of inflammation, in keeping with prior reports of hypermetabolism in inflammatory disorders. To our knowledge, this is the first imaging evidence of SLE-induced CNS inflammation in an SLE inception cohort. The dissociation between 18FDG uptake characteristics, spatial distribution, and correlation with disease activity argues that glucose hyper- and hypometabolism reflect fundamentally different aspects of the pathophysiology of CNS SLE.
systemic lupus erythematosus; positron emission tomography; glucose metabolism; SLEDAI; inflammation
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a clinically heterogeneous autoimmune disease. A number of genetic loci that increase lupus susceptibility have been established. This study examines if these genetic loci also contribute to the clinical heterogeneity in lupus.
Materials and methods
4001 European-derived, 1547 Hispanic, 1590 African-American and 1191 Asian lupus patients were genotyped for 16 confirmed lupus susceptibility loci. Ancestry informative markers were genotyped to calculate and adjust for admixture. The association between the risk allele in each locus was determined and compared in patients with and without the various clinical manifestations included in the ACR criteria.
Renal disorder was significantly correlated with the lupus risk allele in ITGAM (p=5.0×10−6, OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.35) and in TNFSF4 (p=0.0013, OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.25). Other significant findings include the association between risk alleles in FCGR2A and malar rash (p=0.0031, OR 1.11, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.33), ITGAM and discoid rash (p=0.0020, OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.33), STAT4 and protection from oral ulcers (p=0.0027, OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.83 to 0.96) and IL21 and haematological disorder (p=0.0027, OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.22). All these associations are significant with a false discovery rate of <0.05 and pass the significance threshold using Bonferroni correction for multiple testing.
Significant associations were found between lupus clinical manifestations and the FCGR2A, ITGAM, STAT4, TNSF4 and IL21 genes. The findings suggest that genetic profiling might be a useful tool to predict disease manifestations in lupus patients in the future.
T cells from patients with SLE express increased amounts of PP2Ac which contribute to decreased production of IL-2. Because IL-2 is important in the regulation of several aspects of the immune response, it has been proposed that PP2Ac contributes to the expression of SLE. This study was designed to determine whether genetic variants of PPP2AC are linked to the expression of SLE and specific clinical manifestations and account for the increased expression of PP2Ac.
We conducted a trans-ethnic study consisting of 8,695 SLE cases and 7,308 controls from four different ancestries. Eighteen single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across the PPP2CA were genotyped using an Illumina custom array. PPP2CA expression in SLE and control T cells was analyzed by real-time PCR.
A 32-kb haplotype comprised of multiple SNPs of PPP2CA showed significant association with SLE in Hispanic Americans (HA), European Americans (EA) and Asians but not in African-Americans (AA). Conditional analyses revealed that SNP rs7704116 in intron 1 showed consistently strong association with SLE across Asian, EA and HA populations (pmeta=3.8×10−7, OR=1.3[1.14–1.31]). In EA, the largest ethnic dataset, the risk A allele of rs7704116 was associated with the presence of renal disease, anti-dsDNA and anti-RNP antibodies. PPP2CA expression was approximately 2-fold higher in SLE patients carrying the rs7704116 AG genotype than those carrying GG genotype (p = 0.008).
Our data provide the first evidence for an association between PPP2CA polymorphisms and elevated PP2Ac transcript levels in T cells, which implicates a new molecular pathway for SLE susceptibility in EA, HA and Asians.
The overexpression of interferon (IFN)-inducible genes is a prominent feature of SLE, serves as a marker for active and more severe disease, and is also observed in other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. The genetic variations responsible for sustained activation of IFN responsive genes are unknown.
We systematically evaluated association of SLE with a total of 1,754 IFN-pathway related genes, including IFN-inducible genes known to be differentially expressed in SLE patients and their direct regulators. We performed a three-stage design where two cohorts (total n=939 SLE cases, 3,398 controls) were analyzed independently and jointly for association with SLE, and the results were adjusted for the number of comparisons.
A total of 16,137 SNPs passed all quality control filters of which 316 demonstrated replicated association with SLE in both cohorts. Nine variants were further genotyped for confirmation in an average of 1,316 independent SLE cases and 3,215 independent controls. Association with SLE was confirmed for several genes, including the transmembrane receptor CD44 (rs507230, P = 3.98×10−12), cytokine pleiotrophin (PTN) (rs919581, P = 5.38×10−04), the heat-shock DNAJA1 (rs10971259, P = 6.31×10−03), and the nuclear import protein karyopherin alpha 1 (KPNA1) (rs6810306, P = 4.91×10−02).
This study expands the number of candidate genes associated with SLE and highlights the potential of pathway-based approaches for gene discovery. Identification of the causal alleles will help elucidate the molecular mechanisms responsible for activation of the IFN system in SLE.
Genetic association of the IL2/IL21 region at 4q27 has been previously reported in lupus and a number of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Herein, using a very large cohort of lupus patients and controls, we localize this genetic effect to the IL21 gene.
We genotyped 45 tag SNPs across the IL2/IL21 locus in two large independent lupus sample sets. We studied a European-derived set consisting of 4,248 lupus patients and 3,818 healthy controls, and an African-American set of 1,569 patients and 1,893 healthy controls. Imputation in 3,004 WTCCC additional control individuals was also performed. Genetic association between the genotyped markers was determined, and pair-wise conditional analysis was performed to localize the independent genetic effect in the IL2/IL21 locus in lupus.
We established and confirmed the genetic association between IL2/IL21 and lupus. Using conditional analysis and trans-ethnic mapping, we localized the genetic effect in this locus to two SNPs in high linkage disequilibrium; rs907715 located within IL21 (OR=1.16 (1.10–1.22), P= 2.17 ×10−8), and rs6835457 located in the 3’-UTR flanking region of IL21 (OR= 1.11 (1.05–1.17), P= 9.35×10−5).
We have established the genetic association between lupus and IL2/IL21 with a genome-wide level of significance. Further, we localized this genetic association within the IL2/IL21 linkage disequilibrium block to IL21. If other autoimmune IL2/IL21 genetic associations are similarly localized, then the IL21 risk alleles would be predicted to operate in a fundamental mechanism that influences the course of a number of autoimmune disease processes.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and organ damage. Lupus nephritis (LN) is one of the most severe manifestations of SLE. Multiple studies reported associations between renal diseases and variants in the non-muscle myosin heavy chain 9 (MYH9) and the neighboring apolipoprotein L 1 (APOL1) genes. We evaluated 167 variants spanning MYH9 for association with LN in a multiethnic sample. The two previously identified risk variants in APOL1 were also tested for association with LN in European-Americans (EAs) (N = 579) and African-Americans (AAs) (N = 407). Multiple peaks of association exceeding a Bonferroni corrected p-value of p < 2.03 × 10−3 were observed between LN and MYH9 in EAs (N=4620), with the most pronounced association at rs2157257 (p = 4.7 × 10−4; odds ratio [OR]=1.205). A modest effect with MYH9 was also detected in Gullah (rs8136069, p = 0.0019, OR = 2.304). No association between LN and MYH9 was found in AAs, Asians, Amerindians or Hispanics. This study provides the first investigation of MYH9 in LN in non-Africans and of APOL1 in LN in any population and presents novel insight into the potential role of MYH9 in LN in EAs.
MYH9; APOL1; lupus nephritis; systemic lupus erythematosus; multiethnic association study
The aim of this study was to evaluate an extensive panel of cytokines involved in immune regulation during pregnancy in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and in healthy women.
A total of 47 consecutive successful pregnancies in 46 SLE patients and 56 pregnancies in 56 matched healthy subjects, as controls, were prospectively studied. Serum interleukin (IL)-1-α, IL-1-β, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12p70, interferon (INF)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α were detected in sera obtained at the first and third trimester of pregnancy by a highly sensitive, multiplexed sandwich ELISA.
Medians (pg/ml) of serum levels of most helper T (Th)1-type cytokines were significantly lower in the third trimester compared with those observed in the first trimester of pregnancy in healthy women: INF-γ 2.0 vs 3.4, TNF-α 10.2 vs 11.5, IL-1-α 0.9 vs 1.1, IL-1-β 0.6 vs 1.0, IL-2 3.0 vs 3.5, and IL-12p70 4.9 vs 5.6 (P-values < 0.02 for all). By contrast, only the IL-1-α serum levels were lower in the third trimester compared with the first trimester in SLE patients (P = 0.006). IFN-γ/IL-6 and IFN-γ/IL-10 ratios were higher in controls than in SLE (P = 0.002, and P = 0.001, respectively); moreover, they were significantly reduced in the third compared to the first trimester of pregnancy in healthy women, but not in SLE.
In SLE patients, Th1/Th2 cytokine serum level ratio does not decrease during pregnancy progression as much as in healthy pregnant women. This could account for the observation of a low frequency of disease flares in the third trimester of gestation.
High-dose cyclophosphamide has long been used an anticancer agent, a conditioning regimen for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and as potent immunosuppressive agent in autoimmune diseases including aplastic anemia. High-dose cyclophosphamide is highly toxic to lymphocytes but spares hematopoietic stem cells because of their abundant levels of aldehyde dehydrogenase, the major mechanism of cyclophosphamide inactivation. High dose cyclophosphamide therapy induces durable remissions in most patients with acquired aplastic anemia. Moreover, high-dose cyclophosphamide without hematopoietic stem cell rescue has shown activity in a variety of other severe autoimmune diseases. Here we review the history of cyclophosphamide as is applies to aplastic anemia (AA) and other autoimmune diseases. Included here are the historical data from early patients treated for AA as well as an observational retrospective study in a single tertiary care hospital. This latter component was designed to assess the safety and efficacy of high-dose cyclophosphamide therapy without stem cell rescue in patients with refractory autoimmune diseases. We analyzed fully the 140 patients with severe, progressive autoimmune diseases treated. All patients discussed here received cyclophosphamide, 50 mg/kg per day for 4 consecutive days. Response, relapse and overall survival were measured. Response was defined as a decrease in disease activity in conjunction with a decrease or elimination of immune modulating drugs. Relapse was defined as worsening disease activity and/or a requirement of an increase in dose of, or administration of new, immunosuppressive medications. Hematologic recovery occurred in all patients. The overall response rate of the was 95%, and 44% of those patients remain progression-free with a median follow up time of 36 (range 1–120) months for the 140 patients analyzed together. The overall actuarial and event free survival across all diseases at 60 months is 90.7% and 20.6%, respectively. High- dose cyclophosphamide without stem cell rescue is well-tolerated and induces a high rate of remissions in severe autoimmune diseases.
Stem Cell transplantation; Cyclophosphamide; Autoimmune diseases; Autoimmunity; Hematologic recovery
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic autoimmune disease of complex clinical presentation and etiology and is likely influenced by numerous genetic and environmental factors. While a large number of susceptibility genes have been identified, the production of antibodies against a distinct subset of nuclear proteins remains a primary distinguishing characteristic in disease diagnosis. However, the utility of autoantibody biomarkers for disease sub-classification and grouping remains elusive, in part, because of the difficulty in large scale profiling using a uniform, quantitative platform. In the present study serological profiles of several known SLE antigens, including Sm-D3, RNP-A, RNP-70k, Ro52, Ro60, and La, as well as other cytokine and neuronal antigens were obtained using the luciferase immunoprecipitation systems (LIPS) approach. The resulting autoantibody profiles revealed that 88% of a pilot cohort and 98% of a second independent cohort segregated into one of two distinct clusters defined by autoantibodies against Sm/anti-RNP or Ro/La autoantigens, proteins often involved in RNA binding activities. The Sm/RNP cluster was associated with a higher prevalence of serositis in comparison to the Ro/La cluster (P = 0.0022). However, from the available clinical information, no other clinical characteristics were associated with either cluster. In contrast, evaluation of autoantibodies on an individual basis revealed an association between anti-Sm (P = 0.006), RNP-A (P = 0.018) and RNP-70k (P = 0.010) autoantibodies and mucocutaneous symptoms and between anti-RNP-70k and musculoskeletal manifestations (P = 0.059). Serologically active, but clinically quiescent disease also had a higher prevalence of anti-IFN-α autoantibodies. Based on our findings that most SLE patients belong to either a Sm/RNP or Ro/La autoantigen cluster, these results suggest the possibility that alterations in RNA-RNA-binding protein interactions may play a critical role in triggering and/or the pathogenesis of SLE.