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1.  Functional genetic polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with decreased surface expression on dendritic cells and increased serum cytokines in lupus patients 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(4):596-601.
Hyperactivity of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway is involved in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Immunoglobulin like transcript (ILT3) is an immunohibitory transmembrane molecule which is induced by type I IFNs. ILT3 is expressed by plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs), monocytoid dendritic cells (MDCs), and monocytes/macrophages. Given the pathogenic role of IFN in SLE, we hypothesised that the IFN-induced immunosuppressive ILT3 receptor may be dysfunctional in human SLE.
132 European-derived and 79 Hispanic-American SLE patients were genotyped for two coding-change single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) predicted to interfere with protein folding in ILT3 (rs11540761 and rs1048801). 116 control DNA samples and sera from healthy controls were also studied. We detected associations between ILT3 genotype and serum cytokine profiles. ILT3 expression levels on PDCs and MDCs from 18 patients and 10 controls were studied by flow cytometry.
The rs11540761 SNP in the extracellular region was associated with decreased cell surface expression of ILT3 on circulating MDCs and to a lesser extent PDCs in SLE patients. The cytoplasmically located rs1048801 SNP was not associated with a change in dendritic cells expression of ILT3. Both SNPs were significantly and independently associated with increased levels of serum type I IFN activity in SLE patients. The rs1048801 SNP was also associated with increased serum levels of TNF-α.
Loss-of-function polymorphisms in ILT3 are associated with increased inflammatory cytokine levels in SLE, supporting a biological role for ILT3 in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3910490  PMID: 22904259
2.  Circulating cytokines in sarcoidosis: Phenotype-specific alterations for fibrotic and non-fibrotic pulmonary disease 
Cytokine  2013;61(3):906-911.
Sarcoidosis is a granulomatous disease of unknown etiology marked by tremendous clinical heterogeneity. Many patients enter remission with good long-term outcomes. Yet, chronic disease is not uncommon, and this important phenotype remains understudied. Identified alterations in local and circulating cytokines—specifically targeted for study, and often in the acute phase of disease—have informed our growing understanding of the immunopathogenesis of sarcoidosis. Our aim was to evaluate a broad panel of circulating cytokines in patients with chronic sarcoidosis. Among those with chronic disease, pulmonary fibrosis occurs in only a subset. To gain more insight into the determinants of the fibrotic response, we also determined if the phenotypes of fibrotic and non-fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis have distinct cytokine profiles.
In patients with sarcoidosis compared to controls, IL-5 was decreased, and IL-7 was increased. Both of these comparisons withstood rigorous statistical correction for multiple comparisons. GM-CSF met a nominal level of significance. We also detected an effect of phenotype, where IL-5 was significantly decreased in non-fibrotic compared to fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis, and compared to controls. Compared to controls, there was a trend towards a significant increase in IL-7 in fibrotic, but not in non-fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis. In contrast, compared to controls, there was a trend towards a significant increase in GM-CSF in non-fibrotic, but not in fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis.
In a comprehensive evaluation of circulating cytokines in sarcoidosis, we found IL-5, IL-7, and GM-CSF to be altered. These findings provide a window into the immunopathogenesis of sarcoidosis. IL-7 is a novel sarcoidosis cytokine and, as a master regulator of lymphocytes, is an attractive target for further studies. By observing an effect of phenotype upon cytokine patterns, we also identify specific immune alterations which may contribute to clinical heterogeneity.
PMCID: PMC3615886  PMID: 23384655
Sarcoidosis; Cytokines; Interleukin-5; Interleukin-7; Pulmonary fibrosis
3.  Inhibition of Interferon-beta Responses in Multiple Sclerosis Immune Cells Associated With High-Dose Statins 
Archives of neurology  2012;69(10):1303-1309.
To determine whether statins affect type 1 interferon responses in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).
Study effects of atorvastatin on type 1 interferon responses in Jurkat cells, mononuclear cells (MNCs) from therapy-naive patients with RRMS in vitro, and MNCs from interferon-treated RRMS patients in vivo in 4 conditions: no drug, statin only, interferon-beta only, and statin added on to interferon-beta therapy.
The study examined clinically stable patients with RRMS: 21 therapy-naive patients and 14 patients receiving interferon-beta with a statin.
Statin effects on in vitro and in vivo interferon-beta–induced STAT1 transcription factor activation, expression of interferon-stimulated proteins in MNCs, and serum type 1 interferon activity.
In vitro, atorvastatin dose dependently inhibited expression of interferon-stimulated P-Y-STAT1 by 44% (P< .001), interferon regulatory factor 1 protein by 30% (P= .006), and myxovirus resistance 1 protein by 32% (P=.004) compared with no-statin control in MNCs from therapy-naive RRMS patients. In vivo, 9 of 10 patients who received high-dose statins (80 mg) had a significant reduction in interferon-beta therapy–induced serum interferon-α/β activity, whereas only 2 of 4 patients who received medium-dose statins (40 mg) had reductions. High-dose add-on statin therapy significantly blocked interferon-beta function, with less P-Y-STAT1 transcription factor activation, and reduced myxovirus resistance 1 protein and viperin protein production. Medium doses of statins did not change STAT1 activation.
High-dose add-on statin therapy significantly reduces interferon-beta function and type 1 interferon responses in RRMS patients. These data provide a putative mechanism for how statins could counteract the beneficial effects of interferon-beta and worsen disease.
PMCID: PMC3910505  PMID: 22801747
4.  Type I interferon signature is high in lupus and neuromyelitis optica but low in multiple sclerosis 
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is characterized by selective inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerves but is distinct from multiple sclerosis (MS). Interferon (IFN)-β mitigates disease activity in MS, but is controversial in NMO, with a few reports of disease worsening after IFN-β therapy in this highly active disease. In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), IFNs adversely affect disease activity. This study examines for the first time whether serum IFN-α/β activity and IFN-β-induced responses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (MNC) are abnormally elevated in NMO, as they are in SLE, but contrast to low levels in MS.
Serum type I IFN-α/β activity was measured by a previously validated bioassay of 3 IFN-stimulated genes (RT-PCR sensitivity, 0.1 U/ml) rather than ELISA, which has lower sensitivity and specificity for measuring serum IFNs. IFN responses in PBMNC were assessed by in vitro IFN-β-induced activation of phospho-tyrosine-STAT1 and phospho-serine-STAT1 transcription factors, and MxA proteins using Western blots.
Serum IFN-α/β activity was highest in SLE patients, followed by healthy subjects and NMO, but was surprisingly low in therapy-naïve MS. In functional assays in vitro, IFN-β-induced high levels of P-S-STAT1 in NMO and SLE, but not in MS and controls. IFN-β-induced MxA protein levels were elevated in NMO and SLE compared to MS.
Serum IFN activity and IFN-β-induced responses in PBMNC are elevated in SLE and NMO patients versus MS. This argues for similarities in pathophysiology between NMO and SLE and provides an explanation for IFN-induced disease worsening in NMO.
PMCID: PMC3910514  PMID: 22036215
NMO; MS; SLE; Interferon; STAT1; MxA
5.  IRF5 SLE-Risk Haplotype is Associated with Asymptomatic Serologic Autoimmunity and Progression to Clinical Autoimmunity in Neonatal Lupus Mothers 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3383-3387.
Genetic variation in interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been associated with risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and this association is largely dependent upon anti-Ro autoantibodies. We studied a unique cohort of anti-Ro positive individuals with diverse diagnoses to determine if IRF5 genotype associated with maternal diagnosis or progression of autoimmunity.
We genotyped haplotype-tagging polymorphisms in IRF5 in 93 European ancestry subjects recruited to the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus who all had high titer anti-Ro autoantibodies and a child with neonatal lupus (NL), and allele frequencies were compared to non-autoimmune controls. The mothers diagnoses included SLE, Sjogren’s syndrome (SS), undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome (UAS), and asymptomatic.
The SLE-risk haplotype of IRF5 was enriched in all anti-Ro positive subjects except those with SS (OR = 2.55, p=8.8×10−4). Even asymptomatic individuals with anti-Ro antibodies were enriched for the SLE-risk haplotype (OR=2.69, p=0.019). The same haplotype was more prevalent in subjects who were initially asymptomatic, but developed symptomatic SLE during follow up (OR=5.83, p=0.0024). Interestingly, SS was associated with two minor IRF5 haplotypes, and these same haplotypes were decreased in frequency in those with SLE and UAS.
The IRF5 SLE-risk haplotype was associated with anti-Ro antibodies in asymptomatic individuals as well as progression to SLE in asymptomatic anti-Ro positive individuals. SS in NL mothers was associated with different IRF5 haplotypes. These data suggest that IRF5 polymorphisms play a role in serologic autoimmunity in humans and may promote the progression to clinical autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3449035  PMID: 22674082
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon; autoantibodies; neonatal lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome
6.  Large Scale Analysis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2947-2952.
SLE disease manifestations are highly variable between patients, and the prevalence of individual clinical features differs significantly by ancestry. Serum tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is elevated in some SLE patients, and may play a role in disease pathogenesis. We detected associations between serum TNF-α, clinical manifestations, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α in a large multi-ancestral SLE cohort.
We studied serum TNF-α in 653 SLE patients, including 214 African-American, 298 European-Americans and 141 Hispanic-American subjects. TNF-α was measured using ELISA, and IFN-α was measured with a functional reporter cell assay. Stratified and multivariate analyses were used to detect associations in each ancestral background separately, with meta-analysis when appropriate.
Serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher in SLE patients than in nonautoimmune controls (p<5.0×10−3 for each ancestral background). High serum TNF-α was positively correlated with high serum IFN-α when tested in the same sample across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR=1.8, p=1.2×10−3). While serum TNF-α levels alone did not differ significantly between SLE patients of different ancestral backgrounds, the proportion of patients with concurrently high TNF-α and high IFN-α was highest in African-Americans and lowest in European-Americans (p=5.0×10−3). Serum TNF-α was not associated with autoantibodies, clinical criteria for the diagnosis of SLE, or age at time of sample.
Serum TNF-α levels are high in many SLE patients, and we observed a positive correlation between serum TNF-α and IFN-α. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis across all ancestral backgrounds, and suggest important cytokine subgroups within the disease.
PMCID: PMC3396783  PMID: 22488302
systemic lupus erythematosus; tumor necrosis factor alpha; autoantibodies, ancestry
7.  Genetic Ancestry, Serum Interferon-α Activity, and Autoantibodies in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
The Journal of Rheumatology  2012;39(6):1238-1240.
To investigate and refine the relationships among systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and related autoantibodies, interferon-α (IFN-α), and various ancestral backgrounds.
We investigated quantitatively defined genetic ancestry through principal component analysis in place of self-reported ancestry.
African ancestry was found to be associated with presence of anti-RNP antibody (p = 0.0026), and anti-RNP was correlated with high levels of IFN-α (p = 2.8 × 10−5).
Our data support a model in which African ancestry increases the likelihood of SLE-associated autoantibody formation, which subsequently results in higher levels of serum IFN-α.
PMCID: PMC3381952  PMID: 22505704
8.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
9.  The Autoimmune Disease Risk Allele of UBE2L3 in African American Patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Recessive Effect Upon Subphenotypes 
The Journal of Rheumatology  2011;39(1):73-78.
UBE2L3 is associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis in European ancestry populations, and this locus has not been investigated fully in non-European populations. We studied the UBE2L3 risk allele for association with SLE, interferon-α (IFN-α), and autoantibodies in a predominantly African American SLE cohort.
We studied 395 patients with SLE and 344 controls. The UBE2L3 rs5754217 polymorphism was genotyped using Taqman primer-probe sets, and IFN-α was measured using a reporter cell assay.
The UBE2L3 rs5754217 T allele was strongly enriched in African American patients with anti-La antibodies as compared to controls, and a recessive model was the best fit for this association (OR 2.55, p = 0.0061). Serum IFN-α also demonstrated a recessive association with the rs5754217 genotype in African American patients, and the TT/anti-La-positive patients formed a significantly high IFN-α subgroup (p = 0.0040). Similar nonstatistically significant patterns of association were observed in the European American patients with SLE. Case-control analysis did not show large allele frequency differences, supporting the idea that this allele is most strongly associated with anti-La-positive patients.
This pattern of recessive influence within a subgroup of patients may explain why this allele does not produce a strong signal in standard case-control studies, and subphenotypes should be included in future studies of UBE2L3. The interaction we observed between UBE2L3 genotype and autoantibodies upon serum IFN-α suggests a biological role for this locus in patients with SLE in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3304461  PMID: 22045845
10.  Influenza vaccination responses in human systemic lupus erythematosus: impact of clinical and demographic features 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(8):2396-2406.
Vaccination against common pathogens, such as influenza, is recommended for SLE patients to decrease infections and improve health. However, most vaccination response reports are limited to evaluation of SLE patients with quiescent disease. This study focuses on understanding the clinical, serological, therapeutic, and demographic factors which influence the response to influenza vaccination in patients with a range of disease activities.
Blood specimens and disease activity information were collected from seventy-two SLE patients at baseline and 2, 6 and 12 weeks after influenza vaccination. Influenza-specific antibody responses were assessed for antibody concentration (Bmax), relative affinity (Ka), and hemagglutination inhibition (HAI). Using a cumulative score, the subjects were evenly divided into high and low responders. Autoantibody levels were evaluated at each time-point by immunofluorescence and standard ELISAs.
Low responders to the vaccine were more likely to have hematologic criteria (p=0.009), exhibit more ACR criteria (p=0.05), and be on concurrent prednisone treatment (p=0.04). Interestingly, European American patients were more likely to be low responders than African Americans (p = 0.03). Following vaccination, low responders were more likely to experience disease flares (p=0.01) and to have increased ANA titers (p = 0.04). Baseline serum interferon alpha activity was significantly higher in patients that experienced a flare after vaccination compared to a matched group of patients that did not flare (p= 0.04).
Ancestral background, prednisone treatment, hematological criteria and evidence of increased disease flares were associated with low antibody responses to influenza vaccination in SLE patients.
PMCID: PMC3149742  PMID: 21598235
11.  Autoimmune Disease Risk Variant of IFIH1 Is Associated with Increased Sensitivity to IFN-α and Serologic Autoimmunity in Lupus Patients 
Increased IFN-α signaling is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IFN induced with helicase C domain 1 (IFIH1) is a cytoplasmic dsRNA sensor that activates IFN-α pathway signaling. We studied the impact of the autoimmune-disease–associated IFIH1 rs1990760 (A946T) single nucleotide polymorphism upon IFN-α signaling in SLE patients in vivo. We studied 563 SLE patients (278 African-American, 179 European-American, and 106 Hispanic-American). Logistic regression models were used to detect genetic associations with autoantibody traits, and multiple linear regression was used to analyze IFN-α–induced gene expression in PBMCs in the context of serum IFN-α in the same blood sample. We found that the rs1990760 T allele was associated with anti-dsDNA Abs across all of the studied ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis odds ratio = 1.34, p = 0.026). This allele also was associated with lower serum IFN-α levels in subjects who had anti-dsDNA Abs (p = 0.0026). When we studied simultaneous serum and PBMC samples from SLE patients, we found that the IFIH1 rs1990760 T allele was associated with increased IFN-induced gene expression in PBMCs in response to a given amount of serum IFN-α in anti-dsDNA–positive patients. This effect was independent of the STAT4 genotype, which modulates sensitivity to IFN-α in a similar way. Thus, the IFIH1 rs1990760 Tallele was associated with dsDNA Abs, and in patients with anti-dsDNA Abs this risk allele increased sensitivity to IFN-α signaling. These studies suggest a role for the IFIH1 risk allele in SLE in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3304466  PMID: 21705624
12.  Gene-Expression-Guided Selection of Candidate Loci and Molecular Phenotype Analyses Enhance Genetic Discovery in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous autoimmune disorder characterized by differences in autoantibody profiles, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. We have previously conducted a case-case genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SLE patients to detect associations with autoantibody profile and serum interferon alpha (IFN-α). In this study, we used public gene expression data sets to rationally select additional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for validation. The top 200 GWAS SNPs were searched in a database which compares genome-wide expression data to genome-wide SNP genotype data in HapMap cell lines. SNPs were chosen for validation if they were associated with differential expression of 15 or more genes at a significance of P < 9 × 10−5. This resulted in 11 SNPs which were genotyped in 453 SLE patients and 418 matched controls. Three SNPs were associated with SLE-associated autoantibodies, and one of these SNPs was also associated with serum IFN-α (P < 4.5 × 10−3 for all). One additional SNP was associated exclusively with serum IFN-α. Case-control analysis was insensitive to these molecular subphenotype associations. This study illustrates the use of gene expression data to rationally select candidate loci in autoimmune disease, and the utility of stratification by molecular phenotypes in the discovery of additional genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3439981  PMID: 22988468
13.  Network Analysis of Associations between Serum Interferon Alpha Activity, Autoantibodies, and Clinical Features in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(4):1044-1053.
Interferon-alpha (IFN-α) is a primary pathogenic factor in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and high IFN-α levels may be associated with particular clinical manifestations. The prevalence of individual clinical and serologic features differs significantly by ancestry. We used multivariate and network analyses to detect associations between clinical and serologic disease manifestations and serum IFN-α activity in a large diverse SLE cohort.
1089 SLE patients were studied (387 African-American, 186 Hispanic-American, and 516 European-American). Presence or absence of ACR clinical criteria for SLE, autoantibodies, and serum IFN-α activity data were analyzed in univariate and multivariate models. Iterative multivariate logistic regression was performed in each background separately to establish the network of associations between variables that were independently significant following Bonferroni correction.
In all ancestral backgrounds, high IFN-α activity was associated with anti-Ro and anti-dsDNA antibodies (p-values 4.6×10−18 and 2.9 × 10−16 respectively). Younger age, non-European ancestry, and anti-RNP were also independently associated with increased serum IFN-α activity (p≤6.7×10−4). We found 14 unique associations between variables in network analysis, and only 7 of these associations were shared by more than one ancestral background. Associations between clinical criteria were different in different ancestral backgrounds, while autoantibody-IFN-α relationships were similar across backgrounds. IFN-α activity and autoantibodies were not associated with ACR clinical features in multivariate models.
Serum IFN-α activity was strongly and consistently associated with autoantibodies, and not independently associated with clinical features in SLE. IFN-α may be more relevant to humoral tolerance and initial pathogenesis than later clinical disease manifestations.
PMCID: PMC3068224  PMID: 21162028
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestry
14.  African-Derived Genetic Polymorphisms in TNFAIP3 Mediate Risk for Autoimmunity 
The TNF α-induced protein 3 (TNFAIP3) is an ubiquitin-modifying enzyme and an essential negative regulator of inflammation. Genome-wide association studies have implicated the TNFAIP3 locus in susceptibility to autoimmune disorders in European cohorts, including rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, psoriasis, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There are two nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms in the deubiquitinating (DUB) domain of TNFAIP3: F127C, which is in high-linkage disequilibrium with reported SLE-risk variants, and A125V, which has not been previously studied. We conducted a case–control study in African-American SLE patients using these coding variants, along with tagging polymorphisms in TNFAIP3, and identified a novel African-derived risk haplotype that is distinct from previously reported risk variants (odds ratio = 1.6, p = 0.006). In addition, a rare protective haplotype was defined by A125V (odds ratio = 0.31, p = 0.027). Although A125V was associated with protection from SLE, surprisingly the same allele was associated with increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. We tested the functional activity of nonsynonymous coding polymorphisms within TNFAIP3, and found that the A125V coding-change variant alters the DUB activity of the protein. Finally, we used computer modeling to depict how the A125V amino acid change in TNFAIP3 may affect the three-dimensional structure of the DUB domain to a greater extent than F127C. This is the first report of an association between TNFAIP3 polymorphisms and autoimmunity in African-Americans.
PMCID: PMC3307531  PMID: 20483768
15.  Linkage of Type I Interferon Activity and TNF-Alpha Levels in Serum with Sarcoidosis Manifestations and Ancestry 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29126.
Both type I interferon (IFN), also known as IFN-α and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of sarcoidosis. We investigated serum levels of these cytokines in a large multi-ancestral sarcoidosis population to determine correlations between cytokine levels and disease phenotypes.
We studied serum samples from 98 patients with sarcoidosis, including 71 patients of African-American ancestry and 27 patients of European-American ancestry. Serum type I IFN was measured using a sensitive reporter cell assay and serum TNF-α was measured using a commercial ELISA kit. Clinical data including presence or absence of neurologic, cardiac, and severe pulmonary manifestations of sarcoidosis were abstracted from medical records. Twenty age-matched non-autoimmune controls were also studied from each ancestral background. Differences in cytokine levels between groups were analyzed with Mann-Whitney U test, and correlations were assessed using Spearman's rho. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to detect associations between cytokines and clinical manifestations.
Significant differences in cytokine levels were observed between African- and European-American patients with sarcoidosis. In African-Americans, serum TNF-α levels were significantly higher relative to matched controls (P = 0.039), and patients with neurologic disease had significantly higher TNF-α than patients lacking this manifestation (P = 0.022). In European-Americans, serum type I IFN activity was higher in sarcoidosis cases as compared to matched controls, and patients with extra-pulmonary disease represented a high serum IFN subgroup (P = 0.0032). None of the associations observed were shared between the two ancestral groups.
Our data indicate that significant associations between serum levels of TNF-α and type I IFN and clinical manifestations exist in a sarcoidosis cohort that differ significantly by self-reported ancestry. In each ancestral background, the cytokine elevated in patients with sarcoidosis was also associated with a particular disease phenotype. These findings may relate to ancestral differences in the molecular pathogenesis of this heterogeneous disease.
PMCID: PMC3237595  PMID: 22195005
16.  Osteopontin Alleles Are Associated with Clinical Characteristics in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Variants of the osteopontin (OPN) gene have been associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility and cytokine profiles in SLE patients. It is not known whether these alleles are associated with specific clinical phenotypes in SLE. We studied 252 well-characterized SLE patients from a multiethnic cohort, genotyping the rs11730582, rs28357094, rs6532040, and rs9138 SNPs in the OPN gene. Ancestry informative markers were used to control for genetic ancestry. The SLE-risk allele rs9138C in the 3′ UTR region was associated with photosensitivity in lupus patients across all ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 1.6–6.5, P = 1.0 × 10−3). Additionally, the promoter variant rs11730582C demonstrated suggestive evidence for association with two hematologic traits: thrombocytopenia (OR = 2.1, P = 0.023) and hemolytic anemia (OR = 2.6, P = 0.036). These clinical associations with SNPs in the promoter and 3′ UTR regions align with previously reported SLE-susceptibility SNPs in OPN and suggest potential roles for these variants in antibody-mediated cytopenias and skin inflammation in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3205903  PMID: 22131818
17.  Genetic Variation at the IRF7/PHRF1 Locus Is Associated With Autoantibody Profile and Serum Interferon-α Activity in Lupus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(2):553-561.
Interferon-α (IFNα) is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Genetic variation near IRF7 is implicated in SLE susceptibility. SLE-associated autoantibodies can stimulate IFNα production through the Toll-like receptor/IRF7 pathway. This study was undertaken to determine whether variants of IRF7 act as risk factors for SLE by increasing IFNα production and whether autoantibodies are important to this phenomenon.
We studied 492 patients with SLE (236 African American, 162 European American, and 94 Hispanic American subjects). Serum levels of IFNα were measured using a reporter cell assay, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IRF7/PHRF1 locus were genotyped.
In a joint analysis of European American and Hispanic American subjects, the rs702966 C allele was associated with the presence of anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) antibodies (odds ratio [OR] 1.83, P = 0.0069). The rs702966 CC genotype was only associated with higher serum levels of IFNα in European American and Hispanic American patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies (joint analysis P = 4.1 × 10−5 in anti-dsDNA–positive patients and P = 0.99 in anti-dsDNA–negative patients). In African American subjects, anti-Sm antibodies were associated with the rs4963128 SNP near IRF7 (OR 1.95, P = 0.0017). The rs4963128 CT and TT genotypes were associated with higher serum levels of IFNα only in African American patients with anti-Sm antibodies (P = 0.0012). In African American patients lacking anti-Sm antibodies, an effect of anti-dsDNA–rs702966 C allele interaction on serum levels of IFNα was observed, similar to the other patient groups (overall joint analysis P = 1.0 × 10−6). In European American and Hispanic American patients, the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype showed an additive effect with the rs702966 C allele on IFNα level in anti-dsDNA–positive patients.
Our findings indicate that IRF7/PHRF1 variants in combination with SLE-associated autoantibodies result in higher serum levels of IFNα, providing a biologic relevance for this locus at the protein level in human SLE in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2832192  PMID: 20112359
18.  Trait-stratified genome-wide association study identifies novel and diverse genetic associations with serologic and cytokine phenotypes in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R151.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous disorder, characterized by differences in autoantibody profile, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. SLE-associated autoantibodies and high serum interferon alpha (IFN-α) are important heritable phenotypes in SLE which are correlated with each other, and play a role in disease pathogenesis. These two heritable risk factors are shared between ancestral backgrounds. The aim of the study was to detect genetic factors associated with autoantibody profiles and serum IFN-α in SLE.
We undertook a case-case genome-wide association study of SLE patients stratified by ancestry and extremes of phenotype in serology and serum IFN-α. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in seven loci were selected for follow-up in a large independent cohort of 538 SLE patients and 522 controls using a multi-step screening approach based on novel metrics and expert database review. The seven loci were: leucine-rich repeat containing 20 (LRRC20); protein phosphatase 1 H (PPM1H); lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPAR1); ankyrin repeat and sterile alpha motif domain 1A (ANKS1A); protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type M (PTPRM); ephrin A5 (EFNA5); and V-set and immunoglobulin domain containing 2 (VSIG2).
SNPs in the LRRC20, PPM1H, LPAR1, ANKS1A, and VSIG2 loci each demonstrated strong association with a particular serologic profile (all odds ratios > 2.2 and P < 3.5 × 10-4). Each of these serologic profiles was associated with increased serum IFN-α. SNPs in both PTPRM and LRRC20 were associated with increased serum IFN-α independent of serologic profile (P = 2.2 × 10-6 and P = 2.6 × 10-3 respectively). None of the SNPs were strongly associated with SLE in case-control analysis, suggesting that the major impact of these variants will be upon subphenotypes in SLE.
This study demonstrates the power of using serologic and cytokine subphenotypes to elucidate genetic factors involved in complex autoimmune disease. The distinct associations observed emphasize the heterogeneity of molecular pathogenesis in SLE, and the need for stratification by subphenotypes in genetic studies. We hypothesize that these genetic variants play a role in disease manifestations and severity in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2945049  PMID: 20659327
19.  The Role of Genetic Variation Near Interferon-Kappa in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by increased type I interferons (IFNs) and multiorgan inflammation frequently targeting the skin. IFN-kappa is a type I IFN expressed in skin. A pooled genome-wide scan implicated the IFNK locus in SLE susceptibility. We studied IFNK single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 3982 SLE cases and 4275 controls, composed of European (EA), African-American (AA), and Asian ancestry. rs12553951C was associated with SLE in EA males (odds ratio = 1.93, P = 2.5 × 10−4), but not females. Suggestive associations with skin phenotypes in EA and AA females were found, and these were also sex-specific. IFNK SNPs were associated with increased serum type I IFN in EA and AA SLE patients. Our data suggest a sex-dependent association between IFNK SNPs and SLE and skin phenotypes. The serum IFN association suggests that IFNK variants could influence type I IFN producing plasmacytoid dendritic cells in affected skin.
PMCID: PMC2914299  PMID: 20706608
20.  Promoter Variant of PIK3C3 Is Associated with Autoimmunity against Ro and Sm Epitopes in African-American Lupus Patients 
The PIK3C3 locus was implicated in case-case genome-wide association study of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) which we had performed to detect genes associated with autoantibodies and serum interferon-alpha (IFN-α). Herein, we examine a PIK3C3 promoter variant (rs3813065/-442 C/T) in an independent multiancestral cohort of 478 SLE cases and 522 controls. rs3813065 C was strongly associated with the simultaneous presence of both anti-Ro and anti-Sm antibodies in African-American patients [OR = 2.24 (1.34–3.73), P = 2.0 × 10−3]. This autoantibody profile was associated with higher serum IFN-α (P = 7.6 × 10−6). In the HapMap Yoruba population, rs3813065 was associated with differential expression of ERAP2 (P = 2.0 × 10−5), which encodes an enzyme involved in MHC class I peptide processing. Thus, rs3813065 C is associated with a particular autoantibody profile and altered expression of an MHC peptide processing enzyme, suggesting that this variant modulates serologic autoimmunity in African-American SLE patients.
PMCID: PMC2910508  PMID: 20671926

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