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1.  Stochastic humoral immunity to Bacillus anthracis Protective Antigen: Identification of anti-peptide IgG correlating with seroconversion to Lethal Toxin neutralization 
Vaccine  2013;31(14):1856-1863.
A substantial fraction of individuals vaccinated against anthrax have low to immeasurable levels of serum Lethal Toxin (LeTx)-neutralizing activity. The only known correlate of protection against Bacillus anthracis in the currently licensed vaccine is magnitude of the IgG response to Protective Antigen (PA); however, some individuals producing high serum levels of anti-PA IgG fail to neutralize LeTx in vitro. This suggests that non-protective humoral responses to PA may be immunodominant in some individuals. Therefore, to better understand why anthrax vaccination elicits heterogeneous levels of protection, this study was designed to elucidate the relationship between anti-PA fine specificity and LeTx neutralization in response to PA vaccination. Inbred mice immunized with recombinant PA produced high levels of anti-PA IgG and neutralized LeTx in vitro and in vivo. Decapeptide binding studies using pooled sera reproducibly identified the same 9 epitopes. Unexpectedly, sera from individual mice revealed substantial heterogeneity in the anti-PA IgG and LeTx neutralization responses, despite relative genetic homogeneity, shared environment and exposure to the same immunogen. This heterogeneity permitted the identification of specificities that correlate with LeTx-neutralizing activity. IgG binding to six decapeptides comprising two PA epitopes, located in domains I and IV, significantly correlate with seroconversion to LeTx neutralization. These results indicate that stochastic variation in humoral immunity is likely to be a major contributor to the general problem of heterogeneity in vaccine responsiveness and suggest that vaccine effectiveness could be improved by approaches that focus the humoral response toward protective epitopes in a greater fraction of vaccinees.
PMCID: PMC3614092  PMID: 23415781
Bacillus anthracis; Protective antigen; Vaccine; B cell epitope; Mice
2.  Comparison of the American-European Consensus Group Sjögren's syndrome classification criteria to newly proposed American College of Rheumatology criteria in a large, carefully characterized sicca cohort 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2013;73(1):10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203845.
To compare the performance of the American-European Consensus Group (AECG) and the newly proposed American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification criteria for Sjögren's syndrome in a well-characterized sicca cohort, given ongoing efforts to resolve discrepancies and weaknesses in the systems.
In a multidisciplinary clinic for the evaluation of sicca, we assessed features of salivary and lacrimal gland dysfunction and autoimmunity as defined by tests of both AECG and ACR criteria in 646 participants. Global gene expression profiles were compared in a subset of 180 participants.
Application of the AECG and ACR criteria resulted in classification of 279 and 268 participants with SS, respectively. Both criteria were met by 244 participants (81%). In 26 of the 35 AECG+/ACR- participants, the minor salivary gland biopsy focal score was ≥1 (74%), while 9 had positive anti-Ro/La (26%). There were 24 AECG-/ACR+ who met ACR criteria mainly due to differences in the scoring of corneal staining. All patients with SS, regardless of classification, had similar gene expression profiles, which were distinct from the healthy controls.
The two sets of classification criteria yield concordant results in the majority of cases and gene expression profiling suggests that patients meeting either set of criteria are more similar to other SS participants than to healthy controls. Thus, there is no clear evidence for increased value of the new ACR criteria over the old AECG criteria from the clinical or biological perspective. It is our contention, supported by this report, that improvements in diagnostic acumen will require a more fundamental understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms than is at present available.
PMCID: PMC3855629  PMID: 23968620
Sjögren's syndrome; Classification; Diagnosis
3.  Global analysis of B cell selection using an immunoglobulin light chain–mediated model of autoreactivity 
The nature of the immunoglobulin light chain affects peripheral B cell tolerance and autoreactivity.
The important subtleties of B cell tolerance are best understood in a diverse immunoglobulin (Ig) repertoire context encoding a full spectrum of autoreactivity. To achieve this, we used mice expressing Igκ transgenes that confer varying degrees of autoreactivity within a diverse heavy chain (HC) repertoire. These transgenes, coupled with a biomarker to identify receptor-edited cells and combined with expression cloning of B cell receptors, allowed us to analyze tolerance throughout B cell development. We found that both the nature of the autoantigen and the Ig HC versus light chain (LC) contribution to autoreactivity dictate the developmental stage and mechanism of tolerance. Furthermore, although selection begins in the bone marrow, over one third of primary tolerance occurs in the periphery at the late transitional developmental stage. Notably, we demonstrate that the LC has profound effects on tolerance and can lead to exacerbated autoantibody production.
PMCID: PMC3549719  PMID: 23267014
4.  Human Monoclonal Antibodies Generated Following Vaccination with AVA Provide Neutralization by Blocking Furin Cleavage but not by Preventing Oligomerization 
Vaccine  2012;30(28):4276-4283.
In order to identify the combination of antibody-mediated mechanisms of neutralization that result from vaccination with anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA), we isolated antibody secreting cells from a single donor seven days after booster vaccination with AVA and generated nine fully human monoclonal antibodies (hmAb) with high specificity for protective antigen (PA). Two of the antibodies were able to neutralize lethal toxin in vitro at low concentrations (IC50: p6C01, 0.12 µg/ml and p6F01, 0.45 µg/ml). Passive transfer of either of these hmAbs to A/J mice prior to challenge with lethal toxin conferred 80–90% protection. We demonstrate that hmAb p6C01 is neutralizing by preventing furin cleavage of PA in a dose-dependent manner, but the mechanism of p6F01 is unclear. Three additional antibodies were found to bind to domain 3 of PA and prevent oligomerization, although they did not confer significant protection in vivo and showed a significant prozone-like effect in vitro. These fully human antibodies provide insight into the neutralizing response to AVA for future subunit vaccine and passive immunotherapeutic cocktail design.
PMCID: PMC3367042  PMID: 22425791
anthrax; Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed; human monoclonal antibodies; passive immunotherapeutics; protective antigen
5.  Toll-Like Receptors in SLE: Potential Targets for Therapeutic Intervention 
Toll-like receptors have attracted increased attention in recent years, not only for their role in sensing conserved microbial components, but also in the realm of autoimmunity. Though TLRs are most widely known for their capacity to detect conserved motifs of infectious agents, mounting evidence indicates that these innate receptors also promote autoimmune conditions by causing uncontrolled auto-inflammation as a result of chronic recognition of self. In response to the need for modern approaches for treatment of autoimmune diseases, several groups have begun investigating ways to target TLRs as new therapeutic options for autoimmune conditions. Here we discuss recent data describing advancements in Toll-like receptors as therapeutic targets for treatment of autoimmune diseases, with a focus on systemic lupus erythematosus.
PMCID: PMC3307336  PMID: 22086298
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; lupus; autoimmunity; Toll-like receptors
6.  MHC Class II and Non-MHC Class II Genes Differentially Influence Humoral Immunity to Bacillus anthracis Lethal Factor and Protective Antigen 
Toxins  2012;4(12):1451-1467.
Anthrax Lethal Toxin consists of Protective Antigen (PA) and Lethal Factor (LF), and current vaccination strategies focus on eliciting antibodies to PA. In human vaccination, the response to PA can vary greatly, and the response is often directed toward non-neutralizing epitopes. Variable vaccine responses have been shown to be due in part to genetic differences in individuals, with both MHC class II and other genes playing roles. Here, we investigated the relative contribution of MHC class II versus non-MHC class II genes in the humoral response to PA and LF immunization using three immunized strains of inbred mice: A/J (H-2k at the MHC class II locus), B6 (H-2b), and B6.H2k (H-2k). IgG antibody titers to LF were controlled primarily by the MHC class II locus, whereas IgG titers to PA were strongly influenced by the non-MHC class II genetic background. Conversely, the humoral fine specificity of reactivity to LF appeared to be controlled primarily through non-MHC class II genes, while the specificity of reactivity to PA was more dependent on MHC class II. Common epitopes, reactive in all strains, occurred in both LF and PA responses. These results demonstrate that MHC class II differentially influences humoral immune responses to LF and PA.
PMCID: PMC3528256  PMID: 23342680
Bacillus anthracis; protective antigen; lethal factor; vaccine; antibody response; MHC class II; mouse; genetic background
7.  Anthrax Vaccination Induced Anti-Lethal Factor IgG: Fine Specificity and Neutralizing Capacity 
Vaccine  2011;29(20):3670-3678.
The efficacy biomarker of the currently licensed anthrax vaccine (AVA) is based on quantity and neutralizing capacity of anti-Protective Antigen (anti-PA) antibodies. However, animal studies have demonstrated that antibodies to Lethal Factor (LF) can provide protection against in vivo bacterial spore challenges. Improved understanding of the fine specificities of humoral immune responses that provide optimum neutralization capacity may enhance the efficacy of future passive immune globulin preparations to treat and prevent inhalation anthrax morbidity and mortality. This study (n = 1000) was designed to identify AVA vaccinated individuals who generate neutralizing antibodies and to determine what specificities correlate with protection. The number of vaccine doses, years post vaccination, and PA titer were associated with in vitro neutralization, reinforcing previous reports. In addition, African American individuals had lower serologic neutralizing activity than European Americans, suggesting a genetic role in the generation of these neutralizing antibodies. Of the vaccinated individuals, only 69 (6.9%) had moderate levels of anti-LF IgG compared to 244 (24.4%) with low and 687 (68.7%) with extremely low levels of IgG antibodies to LF. Using overlapping decapeptide analysis, we identified six common LF antigenic regions targeted by those individuals with moderate levels of antibodies to LF and high in vitro toxin neutralizing activity. Affinity purified antibodies directed against antigenic epitopes within the PA binding and ADP-ribotransferase-like domains of LF were able to protect mice against lethal toxin challenge. Findings from these studies have important implications for vaccine design and immunotherapeutic development.
PMCID: PMC3233230  PMID: 21420416
Bacillus anthracis; Anthrax; Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed; Lethal Factor; Protective Antigen; correlate of protection
8.  Anthrax Lethal Toxin-Induced Gene Expression Changes in Mouse Lung 
Toxins  2011;3(9):1111-1130.
A major virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis is the anthrax Lethal Toxin (LeTx), a bipartite toxin composed of Protective Antigen and Lethal Factor. Systemic administration of LeTx to laboratory animals leads to death associated with vascular leakage and pulmonary edema. In this study, we investigated whether systemic exposure of mice to LeTx would induce gene expression changes associated with vascular/capillary leakage in lung tissue. We observed enhanced susceptibility of A/J mice to death by systemic LeTx administration compared to the C57BL/6 strain. LeTx-induced groups of both up- and down-regulated genes were observed in mouse lungs 6 h after systemic administration of wild type toxin compared to lungs of mice exposed to an inactive mutant form of the toxin. Lungs of the less susceptible C57BL/6 strain showed 80% fewer differentially expressed genes compared to lungs of the more sensitive A/J strain. Expression of genes known to regulate vascular permeability was modulated by LeTx in the lungs of the more susceptible A/J strain. Unexpectedly, the largest set of genes with altered expression was immune specific, characterized by the up-regulation of lymphoid genes and the down-regulation of myeloid genes. Transcripts encoding neutrophil chemoattractants, modulators of tumor regulation and angiogenesis were also differentially expressed in both mouse strains. These studies provide new directions for the investigation of vascular leakage and pulmonary edema induced by anthrax LeTx.
PMCID: PMC3202878  PMID: 22039574
Lethal Toxin; lung; gene expression
9.  Anthrax Lethal Toxin-Induced Gene Expression Changes in Mouse Lung 
Toxins  2011;3(9):1111-1130.
A major virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis is the anthrax Lethal Toxin (LeTx), a bipartite toxin composed of Protective Antigen and Lethal Factor. Systemic administration of LeTx to laboratory animals leads to death associated with vascular leakage and pulmonary edema. In this study, we investigated whether systemic exposure of mice to LeTx would induce gene expression changes associated with vascular/capillary leakage in lung tissue. We observed enhanced susceptibility of A/J mice to death by systemic LeTx administration compared to the C57BL/6 strain. LeTx-induced groups of both up- and down-regulated genes were observed in mouse lungs 6 h after systemic administration of wild type toxin compared to lungs of mice exposed to an inactive mutant form of the toxin. Lungs of the less susceptible C57BL/6 strain showed 80% fewer differentially expressed genes compared to lungs of the more sensitive A/J strain. Expression of genes known to regulate vascular permeability was modulated by LeTx in the lungs of the more susceptible A/J strain. Unexpectedly, the largest set of genes with altered expression was immune specific, characterized by the up-regulation of lymphoid genes and the down-regulation of myeloid genes. Transcripts encoding neutrophil chemoattractants, modulators of tumor regulation and angiogenesis were also differentially expressed in both mouse strains. These studies provide new directions for the investigation of vascular leakage and pulmonary edema induced by anthrax LeTx.
PMCID: PMC3202878  PMID: 22039574
Lethal Toxin; lung; gene expression
10.  Select human anthrax protective antigen (PA) epitope-specific antibodies provide protection from lethal toxin challenge 
The Journal of infectious diseases  2010;202(2):251-260.
Bacillus anthracis remains a serious bioterrorism concern, and the currently licensed vaccine remains an incomplete solution for population protection from inhalation anthrax and has been associated with concerns regarding efficacy and safety. Thus, understanding how to generate long lasting protective immunity with reduced immunizations or providing protection through post exposure immunotherapeutics are long sought goals. Through evaluation of a large military cohort, we characterized the levels of antibodies against protective antigen and found that over half of anthrax vaccinees had low levels of in vitro toxin neutralization capacity in their sera. Using solid phase epitope mapping and confirmatory assays, we identified several neutralization-associated humoral epitopes and demonstrated that select anti-peptide responses mediated protection in vitro. Finally, passively transferred antibodies specific for select epitopes provided protection in an in vivo lethal toxin mouse model. Identification of these antigenic regions has important implications for vaccine design and the development of directed immunotherapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2891133  PMID: 20533877
anthrax; vaccination; antibodies; protective antigen
11.  TLR7 modulates anti-nucleosomal autoantibody isotype and renal complement deposition in mice exposed to syngeneic late apoptotic cells 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(6):1195-1199.
The objectives of this study were to determine whether late apoptotic cell material directly induces autoantibodies characteristic of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to investigate the innate recognition pathways involved.
B6, B6.MyD88−/−, B6.TLR7−/− and B6.TLR9−/− mice were subcutaneously injected with B6 syngeneic late apoptotic thymocytes (SLATs) without adjuvant on d0, 10, 24 and 37. Sera were tested for IgG antibodies to histones and dsDNA by ELISA and Crithidia luciliae indirect immunofluorescence. IgG and C3 deposition in kidney glomeruli was assessed by immunostaining and fluorescence microscopy.
SLAT injections induced anti-dsDNA and anti-histone antibodies of the IgG1 and IgG2b isotypes in B6 but not MyD88−/− mice. TLR7−/− and TLR9−/− mice injected with SLATs produced delayed or slightly more robust responses, respectively. SLAT injections induced IgG deposits in renal glomeruli of B6, TLR7−/− and TLR9−/− mice that were absent in MyD88−/− mice. Unlike B6 and TLR9−/− animals, TLR7−/− mice failed to exhibit IgG co-localized glomerular C3 deposits and demonstrated autoantibodies of primarily the IgG2a isotype.
Late apoptotic cell-induced anti-histone and anti-dsDNA antibodies require MyD88 but not TLR9. Moreover, TLR7 promotes glomerular C3 deposition, possibly through a mechanism of altered antibody isotype switching.
PMCID: PMC2936817  PMID: 19674980
apoptosis; autoantibody; Toll-like receptor; mouse; systemic lupus erythematosus
12.  CD4 T-Cell Suppression by Cells from Toxoplasma gondii-Infected Retinas Is Mediated by Surface Protein PD-L1▿  
Infection and Immunity  2010;78(8):3484-3492.
In the inflamed retina, CD4+ T cells can cause retinal damage when they are not properly regulated. Since tissue expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II and costimulatory molecules is a key mechanism for regulating effector T cells, we tested the hypothesis that upregulation of these proteins in the retina contributes to the regulation of CD4 T cells. Here we report that in retinas infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, MHC class II is upregulated on infiltrating leukocytes as well as on resident retinal cells, including photoreceptors. Flow cytometric analysis indicated that B7 costimulatory family members (CD80, CD86, ICOS-L, and programmed death ligand 2 [PD-L2]) were not expressed on class II+ cells. In contrast, PD-L1 (also named B7-H1 or CD274) was expressed on the majority of both hematopoietic and resident retinal MHC class II-expressing cells. Retinal cells from Toxoplasma-infected animals were able to suppress T-cell activation in a PD-L1-dependent manner. Finally, we demonstrate that the expression of MHC class II and PD-L1 was critically dependent on gamma interferon (IFN-γ) expression. These data suggest that retinal MHC class II and PD-L1 expression is a novel mechanism by which the retina protects itself from CD4 T-cell-mediated immune damage in ocular toxoplasmosis and other types of retinal immune responses.
PMCID: PMC2916285  PMID: 20498261
13.  Targeting Toll-Like Receptors for Treatment of SLE 
Mediators of Inflammation  2010;2010:498980.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are important innate immune receptors for the identification and clearance of invading pathogens. Twelve TLRs that recognize various conserved components of microorganisms are currently known. Among these, the endosomal TLRs 3, 7/8, and 9 recognize dsRNA, ssRNA, and CpG DNA, respectively. Nucleic acid-sensing TLRs, TLR 7 in particular, have been implicated in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and are thought to exacerbate disease pathology. Activation of these TLRs results in the production of inflammatory cytokines and type I interferon. Genome-wide association studies, single nucleotide polymorphism analyses as well as experimental mouse models have provided evidence of TLR signaling involvement in SLE and other autoimmune diseases. Since activation of these receptor pathways promotes autoimmune phenotypes, inhibitory drugs that target these pathways constitute important new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of systemic autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2945668  PMID: 20886024
14.  The Major Neutralizing Antibody Responses to Recombinant Anthrax Lethal and Edema Factors Are Directed to Non-Cross-Reactive Epitopes▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(11):4714-4723.
Anthrax lethal and edema toxins (LeTx and EdTx, respectively) form by binding of lethal factor (LF) or edema factor (EF) to the pore-forming moiety protective antigen (PA). Immunity to LF and EF protects animals from anthrax spore challenge and neutralizes anthrax toxins. The goal of the present study is to identify linear B-cell epitopes of EF and to determine the relative contributions of cross-reactive antibodies of EF and LF to LeTx and EdTx neutralization. A/J mice were immunized with recombinant LF (rLF) or rEF. Pools of LF or EF immune sera were tested for reactivity to rLF or rEF by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, in vitro neutralization of LeTx and EdTx, and binding to solid-phase LF and EF decapeptides. Cross-reactive antibodies were isolated by column absorption of EF-binding antibodies from LF immune sera and by column absorption of LF-binding antibodies from EF immune sera. The resulting fractions were subjected to the same assays. Major cross-reactive epitopes were identified as EF amino acids (aa) 257 to 268 and LF aa 265 to 274. Whole LF and EF immune sera neutralized LeTx and EdTx, respectively. However, LF sera did not neutralize EdTx, nor did EF sera neutralize LeTx. Purified cross-reactive immunoglobulin G also failed to cross-neutralize. Cross-reactive B-cell epitopes in the PA-binding domains of whole rLF and rEF occur and have been identified; however, the major anthrax toxin-neutralizing humoral responses to these antigens are constituted by non-cross-reactive epitopes. This work increases understanding of the immunogenicity of EF and LF and offers perspective for the development of new strategies for vaccination against anthrax.
PMCID: PMC2772542  PMID: 19720758
15.  Functional anergy in a subpopulation of naive B cells from healthy humans that express autoreactive immunoglobulin receptors 
Self-reactive B cells not controlled by receptor editing or clonal deletion may become anergic. We report that fully mature human B cells negative for surface IgM and retaining only IgD are autoreactive and functionally attenuated (referred to as naive IgD+IgM− B cells [BND]). These BND cells typically make up 2.5% of B cells in the peripheral blood, have antibody variable region genes in germline (unmutated) configuration, and, by all current measures, are fully mature. Analysis of 95 recombinant antibodies expressed from the variable genes of single BND cells demonstrated that they are predominantly autoreactive, binding to HEp-2 cell antigens and DNA. Upon B cell receptor cross-linkage, BND cells have a reduced capacity to mobilize intracellular calcium or phosphorylate tyrosines, demonstrating that they are anergic. However, intense stimulation causes BND cells to fully respond, suggesting that these cells could be the precursors of autoantibody secreting plasma cells in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. This is the first identification of a distinct mature human B cell subset that is naturally autoreactive and controlled by the tolerizing mechanism of functional anergy.
PMCID: PMC2626668  PMID: 19103878
16.  Anti-Nuclear Antibody Production and Autoimmunity in Transgenic Mice that Over-Express the Transcription Factor Bright 
The B cell-restricted transcription factor, Bright, up-regulates immunoglobulin heavy chain transcription three- to seven-fold in activated B cells in vitro. Bright function is dependent upon both active Bruton’s tyrosine kinase and its substrate, the transcription factor, TFII-I. In mouse and human B lymphocytes, Bright transcription is down regulated in mature B cells, and its expression is tightly regulated during B cell differentiation. To determine how Bright expression affects B cell development, transgenic mice were generated that express Bright constitutively in all B lineage cells. These mice exhibited increases in total B220+ B lymphocyte lineage cells in the bone marrow, but the relative percentages of the individual subpopulations were not altered. Splenic immature transitional B cells were significantly expanded both in total cell numbers and as increased percentages of cells relative to other B cell subpopulations. Serum immunoglobulin levels, particularly IgG isotypes, were increased slightly in the Bright transgenic mice compared to littermate controls. However, immunization studies suggest that responses to all foreign antigens were not increased globally. Moreover, four week-old Bright transgenic mice produced anti-nuclear antibodies. Older animals developed antibody deposits in the kidney glomeruli, but did not succumb to further autoimmune sequelae. These data indicate that enhanced Bright expression results in failure to maintain B cell tolerance and suggest a previously unappreciated role for Bright regulation in immature B cells. Bright is the first B cell-restricted transcription factor demonstrated to induce autoimmunity. Therefore, the Bright transgenics provide a novel model system for future analyses of B cell autoreactivity.
PMCID: PMC2705967  PMID: 17312145
autoimmunity; Bright; B cell
17.  Sequential B-Cell Epitopes of Bacillus anthracis Lethal Factor Bind Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Antibodies▿  
Infection and Immunity  2008;77(1):162-169.
The bipartite anthrax lethal toxin (LeTx) consisting of protective antigen (PA) and lethal factor (LF) is a major virulence factor contributing to death from systemic Bacillus anthracis infection. The current vaccine elicits antibodies directed primarily to PA; however, in experimental settings serologic responses to LF can neutralize LeTx and contribute to protection against infection. The goals of the present study were to identify sequential B-cell epitopes of LF and to determine the capacity of these determinants to bind neutralizing antibodies. Sera of recombinant LF-immunized A/J mice exhibited high titers of immunoglobulin G anti-LF reactivity that neutralized LeTx in vitro 78 days after the final booster immunization and protected the mice from in vivo challenge with 3 50% lethal doses of LeTx. These sera bound multiple discontinuous epitopes, and there were major clusters of reactivity on native LF. Strikingly, all three neutralizing, LF-specific monoclonal antibodies tested bound specific peptide sequences that coincided with sequential epitopes identified in polyclonal antisera from recombinant LF-immunized mice. This study confirms that LF induces high-titer protective antibodies in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the binding of short LF peptides by LF-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibodies suggests that generation of protective antibodies by peptide vaccination may be feasible for this antigen. This study paves the way for a more effective anthrax vaccine by identifying discontinuous peptide epitopes of LF.
PMCID: PMC2612257  PMID: 18981257
Analytical biochemistry  2007;370(1):47-53.
Several diseases are characterized by the presence of point mutations, which are amenable to molecular detection using a number of methods including PCR. However, certain mutations are particularly difficult to detect due to factors such as low abundance or the presence of special (e.g. oligo-nucleotide repeat) sequences. The mutation 7A in the oligoA sequence of the exon 7 of the gene encoding La autoantigen is difficult to detect at the DNA and even RNA level due to both its estimated low abundance and its differentiation from the wild type 8A sequence. This paper describes a technique in which amplification of the excess wild type 8A La sequence is suppressed by a peptide nucleic acid (PNA) during a nested PCR step. Detection of the amplified 7A mutant form was then performed by simple electrophoresis following a final primer extension step with an infrared dye-labeled primer. This technique allowed us to detect the mutation in 3 of 7 individuals harboring serum IgG antibodies reactive with a B cell neo-epitope in the 7A-mutant protein product. We propose that this method is a viable screening test for mutations in regions containing simple poly-nucleotide repeats.
PMCID: PMC2597489  PMID: 17663983
19.  Transcriptional modulation of TCR, Notch and Wnt signaling pathways in SEB Anergized CD4+ T cells 
Genes and immunity  2005;6(7):596-608.
Gene expression changes in CD4+Vβ8+ T cells anergized by in vivo exposure to staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) bacterial superantigen compared to CD4+Vβ8+ non-anergic T cells were assessed using DNA microarrays containing 5,184 murine cDNAs. Anergy in splenic T cells of SEB-immunized BALB/c mice was verified by dramatically reduced proliferative capacity and an 8X overexpression of GRAIL mRNA in CD4+Vβ8+ T cells taken from mice 7 d after injection. At an associative t-test threshold of p<0.0005, 96 genes were over-expressed or detected only in anergic T cells, while 256 genes were suppressed or not detected in anergic T cells. Six of eight differential expressions tested using real-time quantitative PCR were validated. Message for B-raf was detected only in non-anergic cells, while expression of the TCR signaling modulator Slap and the TCR ζ-chain specific phosphatase Ptpn3 was enhanced. Modulation of multiple genes suggests down-regulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling and enhanced Notch signaling in the anergic cells. Consistent with previous reports in a non-superantigen in vivo anergy model, mRNA for CD18 and the transcription factor SATB1 was increased in SEB-anergized T cells. This is the first report of global transcriptional changes in CD4+ T cells made anergic by superantigen exposure.
PMCID: PMC2593626  PMID: 16034473
T cell; anergy; superantigen; rodent; microarray
20.  T Helper Cell Tolerance to Ubiquitous Nuclear Antigens 
Systemic autoimmune diseases are characterized by the development of anti-nuclear autoantibodies. In order to understand the immunologic events leading to the development of such antibodies, knowledge of mechanisms of immune tolerance to nuclear antigens is required. By utilizing adoptive T cell transfer strategies with transgenic mouse models expressing nuclear neo-self antigens, T cell tolerance to the lupus-related nuclear antigens human La and nRNP A has been demonstrated. These findings also indicate the existence in normal animals of autoreactive B cells continuously presenting nuclear antigen, suggesting that nuclear antigens are not sequestered from the immune system. Investigations of CD4+ T cell tolerance to non-nuclear antigens have revealed a number of mechanisms that protect the host from autoreactivity, including autoreactive T cell deletion, regulatory T cell development and anergy induction. Recent studies using T cell receptor and neo-self nuclear antigen transgenic mice are revealing the importance of such mechanisms in maintaining tolerance to nuclear antigens. Mechanisms of tolerogenic antigen presentation, identification of tolerogenic antigen source(s), and the pathways leading to loss of tolerance to nuclear antigens in systemic autoimmune disease states are currently being sought.
PMCID: PMC2579760  PMID: 14629620
21.  Autoimmunity as a Result of Escape from RNA Surveillance 
In previous studies we detected a frame shift mutation in the gene encoding the autoantigen La of a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus. The mutant La mRNA contains a premature termination codon. mRNAs that prematurely terminate translation should be eliminated by RNA quality control mechanisms. As we find Abs specific for the mutant La form in about 30% of sera from anti-La positive patients we expected that mutant La mRNAs circumvent RNA control and the expression of mutant La protein could become harmful. Indeed, realtime PCR, immunostaining, and immunoblotting data of mice transgenic for the mutant La form show that mutant La mRNAs are not repressed in these animals and are translated to mutant La protein. In addition to the mutant La protein, we detected a minor portion of native human La in the mutant La transgenic mice. Therefore, ribosomal frame shifting may allow the mutant La mRNA to escape from RNA control. Interestingly, expression of the mutant La mRNA results in a lupus like disease in the experimental mice. Consequently, escape of mutant La mRNA from RNA control can have two effects: It (i) results in the expression of an immunogenic (neo)epitope, and (ii) predisposes to autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2206679  PMID: 16849479
22.  Neo-epitopes are required for immunogenicity of the La/SS-B nuclear antigen in the context of late apoptotic cells 
Mechanisms responsible for the induction of anti-nuclear autoantibodies (ANA) following exposure of the immune system to an excess of apoptotic cells are incompletely understood. In this study, the immunogenicity of late apoptotic cells expressing heterologous or syngeneic forms of La/SS-B was investigated following subcutaneous administration to A/J mice, a non-autoimmune strain in which the La antigenic system is well-understood. Immunization of A/J mice with late apoptotic thymocytes taken from mice transgenic (Tg) for the human La (hLa) nuclear antigen resulted in the production of IgG ANA specific for human and mouse forms of La in the absence of foreign adjuvants. Preparations of phenotypically healthy cells expressing heterologous hLa were also immunogenic. However, hLa Tg late apoptotic cells accelerated and enhanced the apparent heterologous healthy cell-induced anti-La humoral response, while non-Tg late apoptotic cells did not. Subcutaneous administration of late apoptotic cells was insufficient to break existing tolerance to the hLa antigen in hLa Tg mice or to the endogenous mouse La (mLa) antigen in A/J mice immunized with syngeneic thymocytes, indicating a requirement for the presence of heterologous epitopes for anti-La ANA production. Lymph node dendritic cells (DC) but not B cells isolated from non-Tg mice injected with hLa Tg late apoptotic cells presented immunodominant T helper cell epitopes of hLa. These studies support a model in which the generation of neo-T cell epitopes is required for loss of tolerance to nuclear proteins after exposure of the healthy immune system to an excess of cells in late stages of apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC1809581  PMID: 16412047
Autoimmunity; Apoptosis; Autoantibodies; Tolerance; Mice
23.  Conserved features of Y RNAs: a comparison of experimentally derived secondary structures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2000;28(2):610-619.
In this study, phylogenetically conserved structural features of the Ro RNP associated Y RNAs were investigated. The human, iguana, and frog Y3 and Y4 RNA sequences have been determined previously and the respective RNAs were subjected to enzymatic and chemical probing to obtain structural information. For all of the analyzed RNAs, the probing data were used to compose secondary structures, which partly deviate from previously predicted structures. Our results confirm the existence of two stem structures, which are also found at similar positions in hY1 and hY5 RNA. For the remaining parts of hY3 and hY4 RNA the secondary structures differ from those previously proposed based upon computer predictions. What might be more important is that certain parts of the RNAs appear to be flexible, i.e., to adopt several conformations. Another striking feature is that a characteristic pyrimidine-rich region, present in every Y RNA known, is single-stranded in all secondary structures. This may suggest that this region is readily available for base pairing interactions with other cellular nucleic acids, which might be important for the as yet unknown function of the RNAs.
PMCID: PMC102524  PMID: 10606662

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