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1.  Impact of the Medicare Short Stay Transfer Policy on Patients undergoing Major Orthopedic Surgery 
Health Services Research  2007;42(1 Pt 1):25-44.
To examine the impact of the Short Stay Transfer Policy (SSTP) on practice patterns.
Data Sources
This study uses data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MEDPAR) file, Home Health Standard Analytical File, 1999 Provider of Service file, and data from the 2000 United States Census.
Study Design
An interrupted time-series analysis was used to examine the length of stay (LOS) and probability of “early” discharge to post acute care (PAC).
Data Collection
Separate 100percent samples of all fee-for-service Medicare recipients undergoing either elective joint replacement (JR) surgery or surgical management of hip fracture (FX) between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 2000 were selected.
Principal Findings
Prior to implementation of the SSTP. LOS had been falling by 0.37 and 0.30 days per year for JR and FX patients respectively. After implementation of the SSTP, there was an immediate increase in LOS by 0.20 and 0.17 days, respectively. Thereafter, LOS remained flat. The proportion of patients discharged “early” to PAC had been rising by 4.4 and 2.6 percentage points per year for JR and FX patients respectively, to a peak of 28.8percent and 20.4percent early PAC utilization in September 1998. Immediately after implementation of the SSTP, there was a 4.3 and 3.0 percentage point drop in utilization of “early” PAC. Thereafter utilization of early PAC increased at a much slower rate (for JR) or remained flat (for FX). There was significant regional variation in the magnitude of response to the policy.
Implementation of the SSTP reduced the financial incentive to discharge patients early to PAC. This was accomplished primarily through longer LOS without meaningful change in PAC utilization. With the recent expansion of the SSTP to 29 DRGs (representing 34percent of all discharges), these findings have important implications regarding patient care.
PMCID: PMC1955238  PMID: 17355580
Medicare; Short Stay Transfer Policy; hip fracture; joint replacement; length of stay; post-acute care
2.  Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Regulation of Autoantibody Production in Lupus 
The hyperactive interaction between helper T cells and autoimmune B cells in individuals predisposed to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can be interrupted by induction of regulatory and suppressor T cells. Using two strategies—high dose tolerance to an immunoglobulin-derived peptide, and minigene vaccination with DNA encoding T cell epitopes presented by MHC class I molecules—our group has induced at least three types of regulatory/suppressive T cells. They include CD8+ T cells that suppress helper T cells by cytokine secretion, CD8+ T suppressors that kill B cells making anti-DNA antibodies, and peptide-binding CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells that suppress B cells by direct cell contact. Each of these lymphocyte subsets suppresses anti-DNA antibody production and delays the onset of nephritis in BWF1 lupus-prone mice. Patients with SLE have amino acid sequences similar to those from murine anti-DNA antibodies used in these studies, and at similar locations in the VH regions of anti-DNA immunoglobulins. Therefore, strategies described here might ultimately be useful in therapy of the human disease.
PMCID: PMC2291525  PMID: 16126985
systemic lupus erythematosus; CD8+ T cells; regulatory T cells; suppressor T cells
3.  Differences between CD8+ T cells in lupus-prone (NZB × NZW) F1 mice and healthy (BALB/c × NZW) F1 mice may influence autoimmunity in the lupus model 
European journal of immunology  2004;34(9):2489-2499.
Immunization with portions of a murine antibody to DNA induced Ig peptide-reactive peripheral CD8+ inhibitory T (Ti) cells in non-autoimmune (BALB/c × NZW) F1 (CWF1) mice. Those Ti suppressed in vitro production of IgG anti-DNA by lymphocytes from MHC-matched, lupus-prone (NZB × NZW) F1 (BWF1) mice, primarily via secretion of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). However, splenic CD8+ cells from immunized BWF1 mice failed to suppress anti-DNA. Therefore, BWF1 mice were studied for defects in peripheral CD8+ T cells. The potential to suppress autoimmunity mediated by activated CD4+ helper T and B cells in BWF1 mice was assessed. As BWF1 mice aged, peripheral CD8+ T cells expanded little; fewer than 10% displayed surface markers of activation and memory. In contrast, quantities of splenic CD4+ T and B cells increased; high proportions displayed activation/memory markers. In old compared to young BWF1 mice, splenic cell secretion of two cytokines required for generation of CD8+ T effectors, IL-2 and TGF-β, was decreased. Immunizing BWF1 mice activated peptide-reactive CD8+ T cells, but their number was decreased compared to young BWF1 or old normal mice. While peptide-reactive splenic CD8+ T cells from immunized BWF1 mice did not survive in short-term cultures, similar CD8+ T cell lines from immunized CWF1 mice expanded and on transfer into BWF1 mice delayed autoimmunity and prolonged survival. Therefore, CD8+ T cells in old BWF1 mice are impaired in expansion, acquisition of memory, secretion of cytokine, and suppression of autoimmunity. Understanding these defects might identify targets for therapy in systemic lupus erythematosus.
PMCID: PMC2291530  PMID: 15307181
Inhibitory CD8+ T cells; Lupus
4.  Identification and Characterization of a Peptide Mimetic That May Detect a Species of Disease-Associated Anticardiolipin Antibodies in Patients With the Antiphospholipid Syndrome 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2003;48(3):737-745.
To test the feasibility of applying a mimetic (specific for a patient-derived prothrombotic anticardiolipin antibody [aCL]) to study the homologous, disease-associated aCL in patients with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS).
We used the CL15 monoclonal aCL to screen 17 phage-display peptide libraries. Peptides (corresponding to recurrent peptide sequences) and their derivatives were synthesized and analyzed for binding to CL15 and for their abilities to inhibit CL15 from binding to cardiolipin. A peptide was chosen and used to study CL15-like IgG aCL in plasma samples from patients with APS, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) but without APS, and normal healthy donors.
Library screening with CL15 yielded 4 recurrent peptide sequences. Analyses of peptides showed that peptide CL154C reacted with antibody CL15 and inhibited binding of CL15 to cardiolipin, indicating that peptide CL154C may be a peptide mimetic for the CL15 aCL. Initial studies with plasma samples revealed that CL154C-reactive IgG was present (positivity defined as the mean + 3 SD optical density of the 25 normal controls) in 15 of 21 APS patients and 1 of 12 SLE patients.
These findings suggest that it is feasible to develop a specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for each immunologically and functionally distinct disease-associated aCL. Additional testing of CL154C with a larger number of APS patients and SLE patients, as well as identification of peptide mimetics for each distinct aCL, will reveal the diagnostic potential of CL154C and other mimetics in identifying patients with aCL who are at risk of developing life-threatening thrombosis.
PMCID: PMC2206208  PMID: 12632428
5.  A Panel of Biomarkers Is Associated With Increased Risk of the Presence and Progression of Atherosclerosis in Women With Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
An increased frequency of atherosclerosis (ATH) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is well-documented but not fully explained by the presence of traditional cardiac risk factors. Several nontraditional biomarkers, including proinflammatory high-density lipoprotein (piHDL) and leptin, have been individually associated with subclinical ATH in SLE. The aim of this study was to examine whether these and other biomarkers can be combined into a risk profile, the Predictors of Risk for Elevated Flares, Damage Progression, and Increased Cardiovascular Disease in Patients with SLE (PREDICTS), that could be used to better predict future progression of ATH.
In total, 210 patients with SLE and 100 age-matched healthy control subjects (all women) participated in this prospective cohort study. The longitudinal presence of carotid plaque and intima-media thickness (IMT) were measured at baseline and followup (mean ± SD 29.6 ± 9.7 months).
At followup, carotid plaque was present in 29% of SLE patients. Factors significantly associated with plaque, determined using Salford Predictive Modeling and multivariate analysis, included age ≥48 years (odds ratio [OR] 4.1, P = 0.002), high piHDL function (OR 9.1, P < 0.001), leptin levels ≥34 ng/dl (OR 7.3, P = 0.001), plasma soluble TWEAK levels ≥373 pg/ml (OR 28.8, P = 0.004), and history of diabetes (OR 61.8, P < 0.001). Homocysteine levels ≥12 μmoles/liter were also a predictor. However, no single variable demonstrated an ideal combination of good negative predictive values (NPVs), positive predictive values (PPVs), sensitivity, and specificity. A high-risk PREDICTS profile was defined as ≥3 positive biomarkers or ≥1 positive biomarker plus a history of diabetes; for high-risk SLE patients, the PPV was 64%, NPV was 94%, sensitivity was 89%, and specificity was 79%. In multivariate analysis, SLE patients with the high-risk profile had 28-fold increased odds for the longitudinal presence of plaque (P < 0.001) and increased progression of IMT (P < 0.001).
A high-risk PREDICTS score confers 28-fold increased odds of the presence of any current, progressive, or acquired carotid plaque, both in patients with SLE and in control subjects, and is significantly associated with higher rates of IMT progression.
PMCID: PMC4106468  PMID: 24449580
6.  Blockade of Programmed Death-1 (PD-1) in young (New Zealand Black × New Zealand White)F1 mice promotes the suppressive capacity of CD4+ regulatory T cells protecting from lupus-like disease 
PD-1 usually acts as a negative signal for T cell activation, and its expression on CD8+Foxp3+ T cells is required for their suppressive capacity. Here we show that PD-1 signalling is required for the maintenance of functional regulatory CD4+CD25+Foxp3+T cells (CD4+Treg) that can control autoimmunity in (New Zealand Black × New Zealand White) F1 (BWF1) lupus mice. PD-1 signalling induced resistance to apoptosis and prolonged the survival of CD4+Treg. In vivo, the blockade of PD-1 with a neutralizing antibody (Ab) reduced PD-1 expression on CD4+Treg (PD1loCD4+Treg). PD1loCD4+Treg had an increased ability to promote B cell apoptosis and to suppress CD4+ helper T cells (Th) as compared to CD4+Treg with elevated PD-1 expression (PD1hiCD4+Treg). When PD-1 expression on CD4+Treg was blocked in vitro, PD1loCD4+Treg suppressed B cell production of IgG and anti-dsDNA Ab. Finally, in vitro studies showed that the suppressive capacity of CD4+Treg depended on PD-1 expression, and that a fine tuning of the expression of this molecule directly affected cell survival and immune suppression. These results indicate that PD-1 expression has multiple effects on different immune cells that directly contribute to a modulation of autoimmune responses.
PMCID: PMC3700538  PMID: 23636058
7.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
8.  The role of the immune system in atherosclerosis: molecules, mechanisms and implications for management of cardiovascular risk and disease in patients with rheumatic diseases 
Nature reviews. Rheumatology  2012;8(4):214-223.
Rapid-onset cardiovascular disease is a major concern for many patients suffering from SLE. Cardiovascular events are more frequent and occur much earlier in SLE patients compared to healthy controls. Traditional risk factors such as altered lipid levels, older age and smoking do not fully explain the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, strongly suggesting that autoimmunity contributes to accelerated atherosclerosis. Altered immune system function is recognized as the primary contributor to both the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Multiple manifestations of autoimmunity, including autoantibodies, altered cytokine levels and innate immunity response, adipokines, dysfunctional lipids, and oxidative stress appear to contribute to atherosclerotic risk. In addition, multiple SLE therapeutics appear to affect the development and progression of atherosclerosis both positively and negatively. SLE-specific biomarkers for identifying patients at risk of developing accelerated atherosclerosis are starting to be identified by multiple groups, and a comprehensive, clinically testable biomarker panel could be invaluable for identifying and treating these patients.
PMCID: PMC3765069  PMID: 22331061
9.  Systemic lupus erythematosus and cardiovascular disease: prediction and potential for therapeutic intervention 
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular events due to atherosclerosis. Traditional cardiac risk factors cannot fully explain this increased risk. Recent evidence strongly suggests that atherosclerotic plaque is largely driven by inflammation and an active immunological response, in contrast to the long-held belief that plaque is a passive accumulation of lipids in the arterial wall. Current approaches to the prevention of atherosclerosis in systemic lupus erythematosus involve targeting modifiable cardiac risk factors. Future preventive strategies may include therapies that counteract the immunologic responses that lead to plaque formation.
PMCID: PMC3718673  PMID: 21426260
apoA-1; atherosclerosis; HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors; homocysteine; oxidized LDL; proinflammatory HDL; statins; systemic lupus erythematosus
10.  Genes, Tolerance and Systemic Autoimmunity 
Autoimmunity Reviews  2011;11(9):664-669.
The characterization of functional CD8+ inhibitory or regulatory T cells and their gene regulation remains a critical challenge in the field of tolerance and autoimmunity. Investigating the genes induced in regulatory cells and the regulatory networks and pathways that underlie mechanisms of immune resistance and prevent apoptosis in the CD8+ T cell compartment are crucial to understanding tolerance mechanisms in systemic autoimmunity. Little is currently known about the genetic control that governs the ability of CD8+ Ti or regulatory cells to suppress anti-DNA Ab production in B cells. Silencing genes with siRNA or shRNA and overexpression of genes with lentiviral cDNA transduction are established approaches to identifying and understanding the function of candidate genes in tolerance and immunity. Elucidation of interactions between genes and proteins, and their synergistic effects in establishing cell-cell cross talk, including receptor modulation/antagonism, are essential for delineating the roles of these cells. In this review, we will examine recent reports which describe the modulation of cells from lupus prone mice or lupus patients to confer anti-inflammatory and protective gene expression and novel associated phenotypes. We will highlight recent findings on the role of selected genes induced by peptide tolerance in CD8+ Ti.
PMCID: PMC3306516  PMID: 22155015
Autoimmunity; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; CD8+ Treg; Genes and Tolerance
12.  Tolerance induced by anti-DNA Ig peptide in (NZB × NZW)F1 lupus mice impinges on the resistance of effector T cells to suppression by regulatory T cells 
Clinical Immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2011;142(3):291-295.
We have previously shown that immune tolerance induced by the anti-DNA Ig peptide pCons in (NZB × NZW)F1 (NZB/W) lupus mice prolonged survival of treated animals and delayed the appearance of autoantibodies and glomerulonephritis. Part of the protection conferred by pCons could be ascribed to the induction of regulatory T cells (TReg) that suppressed the production of anti-DNA antibodies in a p38 MAPK-dependent fashion. Here we show that another effect of pCons in the induction of immune tolerance in NZB/W lupus mice is the facilitation of effector T cell suppression by TReg. These new findings indicate that pCons exerts protective effects in NZB/W lupus mice by differentially modulating the activity of different T cell subsets, implying new considerations in the design of TReg–based approaches to modulate T cell autoreactivity in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3288892  PMID: 22137928
Systemic lupus erythematosus; immune tolerance; anti-DNA antibodies; regulatory T cells; effector T cells; tolerogenic peptide
13.  Fine Mapping of Xq28: Both MECP2 and IRAK1 Contribute to Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Multiple Ancestral Groups 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2012;72(3):437-444.
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.
PMCID: PMC3567234  PMID: 22904263
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Gene Polymorphism; Xq28; IRAK1; MECP2
14.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
15.  Plasma levels of osteopontin identify patients at risk for organ damage in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Osteopontin (OPN) has been implicated as a mediator of Th17 regulation via type I interferon (IFN) receptor signaling and in macrophage activity at sites of tissue repair. This study assessed whether increased circulating plasma OPN (cOPN) precedes development of organ damage in pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus (pSLE) and compared it to circulating plasma neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (cNGAL), a predictor of increased SLE disease activity.
cOPN and cNGAL were measured in prospectively followed pSLE (n = 42) and adult SLE (aSLE; n = 23) patients and age-matched controls. Time-adjusted cumulative disease activity and disease damage were respectively assessed using adjusted-mean SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) (AMS) and SLICC/ACR damage index (SDI).
Compared to controls, elevated cOPN and cNGAL were observed in pSLE and aSLE. cNGAL preceded worsening SLEDAI by 3-6 months (P = 0.04), but was not associated with increased 6-month AMS. High baseline cOPN, which was associated with high IFNalpha activity and expression of autoantibodies to nucleic acids, positively correlated with 6-month AMS (r = 0.51 and 0.52, P = 0.001 and 0.01 in pSLE and aSLE, respectively) and was associated with SDI increase at 12 months in pSLE (P = 0.001). Risk factors for change in SDI in pSLE were cOPN (OR 7.5, 95% CI [2.9-20], P = 0.03), but not cNGAL, cumulative prednisone, disease duration, immunosuppression use, gender or ancestry using univariate and multivariate logistic regression. The area under the curve (AUC) when generating the receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) of baseline cOPN sensitivity and specificity for the indication of SLE patients with an increase of SDI over a 12 month period is 0.543 (95% CI 0.347-0.738; positive predictive value 95% and negative predictive value 38%).
High circulating OPN levels preceded increased cumulative disease activity and organ damage in SLE patients, especially in pSLE, and its value as a predictor of poor outcome should be further validated in large longitudinal cohorts.
PMCID: PMC3672798  PMID: 23343383
16.  Association of PPP2CA polymorphisms with SLE susceptibility in multiple ethnic groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(9):2755-2763.
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.
PMCID: PMC3163110  PMID: 21590681
17.  Association of a functional IRF7 variant with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2011;63(3):749-754.
Previous genome wide association study conducted in a population of European ancestry identified rs4963128, a KIAA1542 SNP 23kb telomeric to IRF7, in strong association with SLE. This study was undertaken to investigate whether genetic polymorphism within IRF7 is a risk factor for the development of SLE.
We genotyped one KIAA1542 SNP rs4963128 and one IRF7 SNP rs1131665 (Q412R) in an Asian population (cases vs. controls: 1302 vs.1479) to assess their association with SLE using custom-designed Beadstation Infinium II platform (Illumina). Subsequently, rs1131665 was further genotyped in independent panels of Chinese (528 vs.527), European American (EA) (446 vs.461) and African American (AA) (159 vs.115) by Taqman genotyping assay to seek confirmation of association in various ethnic groups. Luciferase reporter assay was used to assess the effect of Q412R polymorphism on the activation of IRF7.
Consistent association of rs1131665 (Q412R) with SLE was identified in Asian, EA and AA populations (case vs. control: 2435 vs. 2582; Pmeta = 6.18×10−6, OR = 1.42[1.22–1.65]). Expression of IRF7 412Q risk allele resulted in a 2-fold increase in ISRE transcriptional activity compared with expression of IRF7 412R (P = 0.0003), suggesting IRF7 412Q confers elevated IRF7 activity and may therefore affect downstream IFN pathway.
We showed that the major allele of a nonsynonymous SNP rs1131665 (412Q) in IRF7 confers elevated IRF7 activation and predisposes to the development of SLE in multiple ethnic groups. This result provides direct genetic evidence supporting IRF7 may be a risk gene for human SLE.
PMCID: PMC3063317  PMID: 21360504
18.  Dysfunctional, pro-inflammatory HDL directly upregulate monocyte PDGFRβ, chemotaxis and TNFα production 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2010;137(1):147-156.
Accelerated atherosclerosis is a major co-morbid condition in autoimmune diseases. Monocytes are the main immune cell involved in atherosclerosis initiation. We hypothesized that dysfunctional, pro-inflammatory HDL (piHDL), which occur in approximately half of SLE patients, might directly influence monocyte gene expression and function. SLE subjects were stratified into three groups: 1) carotid artery plaque+piHDL+ 2) plaque-piHDL+ and 3) plaque-piHDL- (n=18/group). PDGFRβ was upregulated in primary monocytes from plaque+piHDL+ patients and in THP-1 cells acutely treated in vitro with piHDL compared to normal HDL. THP-1 chemotaxis was enhanced after treatment with piHDL versus normal HDL. Abnormal migration was restored to normal levels by treatment with imatinib or an apoJ-mimetic peptide. Increased piHDL-mediated TNFα protein levels were reduced with both inhibitors. Dysfunctional piHDL directly influences expression of a small number of transcripts and proteins, and piHDL inhibition through reducing piHDL oxidation or blocking PDGFRβ kinase activity restored normal monocyte chemotaxis.
PMCID: PMC2941543  PMID: 20637704
high-density lipoproteins; monocyte; PDGFRβ; atherosclerosis; systemic lupus erythematosus
19.  CD8+ Tregs in Lupus, Autoimmunity, and Beyond 
Autoimmunity reviews  2010;9(8):560-568.
While CD4+CD25high regulatory T cells (Tregs) have garnered much attention for their role in the maintenance of immune homeostasis, recent findings have shown that subsets of CD8+ T cells (CD8+ Tregs) display immunoregulatory functions as well. Both CD4+ Tregs and CD8+ Tregs appear impaired in number and/or function in several autoimmune diseases and in experimental animal models of autoimmunity, suggesting the possibility of immunotherapeutic targeting of these cells for improved management of autoimmune conditions. Our group has developed a strategy to induce CD8+ Tregs in autoimmune mice through the use of a tolerogenic self-peptide, and new information has been gained on the phenotype, function and role of induced CD8+ Tregs in autoimmunity. Here we present an overview of the role and mechanisms of action of CD8+ Tregs in autoimmunity, with a special focus on lupus. We also discuss the potential role of CD8+ Tregs in other diseases, including chronic infection and cancer.
PMCID: PMC2879466  PMID: 20385256
Autoimmunity; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; CD8+Tregs; Immune tolerance/ Suppression
20.  PD-1, gender, and autoimmunity 
Autoimmunity reviews  2010;9(8):583-587.
Programmed death 1 (PD-1) and its ligands (PD-L1 and PD-L2) are responsible for inhibitory T cell signaling that helps mediate the mechanisms of tolerance and immune homeostasis. The PD-1:PD-L signaling pathway has been shown to play an important role in a variety of diseases, including autoimmune conditions, chronic infection, and cancer. Recently, investigators have explored the role of sex hormones in modulating the pathway in autoimmune conditions. Exploring the effects of sex hormones on the PD-1:PD-L pathway could shed light on the gender biased nature of many autoimmune conditions as well as aide in the development of therapeutics targeting the immune system.
PMCID: PMC2884990  PMID: 20433954
PD-1; Gender; Sex hormones; Autoimmunity; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Immune system
21.  Association of Genetic Variants in Complement Factor H and Factor H-Related Genes with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Susceptibility 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(5):e1002079.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a complex polygenic autoimmune disease, is associated with increased complement activation. Variants of genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) within the chromosome 1q32 locus linked to SLE, have been associated with multiple human diseases and may contribute to dysregulated complement activation predisposing to SLE. We assessed 60 SNPs covering the CFH-CFHRs region for association with SLE in 15,864 case-control subjects derived from four ethnic groups. Significant allelic associations with SLE were detected in European Americans (EA) and African Americans (AA), which could be attributed to an intronic CFH SNP (rs6677604, in intron 11, Pmeta = 6.6×10−8, OR = 1.18) and an intergenic SNP between CFHR1 and CFHR4 (rs16840639, Pmeta = 2.9×10−7, OR = 1.17) rather than to previously identified disease-associated CFH exonic SNPs, including I62V, Y402H, A474A, and D936E. In addition, allelic association of rs6677604 with SLE was subsequently confirmed in Asians (AS). Haplotype analysis revealed that the underlying causal variant, tagged by rs6677604 and rs16840639, was localized to a ∼146 kb block extending from intron 9 of CFH to downstream of CFHR1. Within this block, the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 (CFHR3-1Δ), a likely causal variant measured using multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, was tagged by rs6677604 in EA and AS and rs16840639 in AA, respectively. Deduced from genotypic associations of tag SNPs in EA, AA, and AS, homozygous deletion of CFHR3-1Δ (Pmeta = 3.2×10−7, OR = 1.47) conferred a higher risk of SLE than heterozygous deletion (Pmeta = 3.5×10−4, OR = 1.14). These results suggested that the CFHR3-1Δ deletion within the SLE-associated block, but not the previously described exonic SNPs of CFH, might contribute to the development of SLE in EA, AA, and AS, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease, associated with increased complement activation. Previous studies have provided evidence for the presence of SLE susceptibility gene(s) in the chromosome 1q31-32 locus. Within 1q32, genes encoding complement regulator factor H (CFH) and five CFH-related proteins (CFHR1-CFHR5) may contribute to the development of SLE, because genetic variants of these genes impair complement regulation and predispose to various human diseases. In this study, we tested association of genetic variants in the region containing CFH and CFHRs with SLE. We identified genetic variants predisposing to SLE in European American, African American, and Asian populations, which might be attributed to the deletion of CFHR3 and CFHR1 genes but not previously identified disease-associated exonic variants of CFH. This study provides the first evidence for consistent association between CFH/CFHRs and SLE across multi-ancestral SLE datasets, providing new insights into the role of complement regulators in the pathogenesis of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3102741  PMID: 21637784
22.  Low Physical Activity is Associated with Proinflammatory High Density Lipoprotein and Increased Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis care & research  2010;62(2):258-265.
To investigate the association between physical activity, functional activity of HDL, and subclinical cardiovascular disease in patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).
242 SLE patients (all women) participated in this cross-sectional study from February 2004 to February 2008. Carotid plaque and intima-media thickness (IMT), antioxidant function of HDL, and traditional cardiac risk factors were measured. Physical activity was assessed from self-reports by calculating the metabolic equivalent-minutes (METs) per week and by the physical function domain of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 (SF-36). Data were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate regression analyses.
Number of METs per week spent performing strenuous exercise was negatively correlated with IMT (r = −.30, P = 0.002) and number of plaques (r = −.30, P = 0.0001). Physical function as assessed by the SF-36 was also negatively correlated with IMT (r = .14, P = 0.03) and number of plaques (r = −.14, P = 0.04). In multivariate analyses, number of strenuous exercise METs was significantly associated with IMT (t = −2.2, P = 0.028) and number of plaques (t = −2.5, P = 0.014) when controlling for markers of SLE disease activity and damage, but not after controlling for traditional cardiac risk factors. Low physical activity, defined as < 225 total METs per week, was associated with presence of piHDL (P = 0.03).
Low physical activity is associated with increased subclinical atherosclerosis and with piHDL in patients with SLE. Increased strenuous exercise may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2853476  PMID: 20191526
23.  Dysfunctional Pro-Inflammatory High Density Lipoproteins Confer Increased Risk for Atherosclerosis in Women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(8):2428-2437.
Women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have increased atherosclerosis. Identification of at-risk patients and the etiology underlying atherosclerosis in SLE remains elusive. Normal HDL lose antioxidant capacity during inflammation, and these dysfunctional HDL might predispose to atherosclerosis. The aim of this study is to determine whether dysfunctional pro-inflammatory HDL (piHDL) is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE.
276 SLE women had carotid artery ultrasound to identify plaques and measure intima-media thickness (IMT). Antioxidant function of HDL was measured as change in oxidation of LDL after addition of subject HDL. Two anti-inflammatory HDL components, paraoxonase and apolipoprotein A-1, were also measured.
48.2% of patients had piHDL. 86.7% of subjects with plaque had piHDL, versus 40.7% without (p<0.001). Patients with piHDL also had higher IMT (p<0.001). After multivariate analysis, the only significant factors associated with plaque were piHDL, (OR 16.1, p<0.001), age (OR 1.2, p<0.001), hypertension (OR 3.0, p=0.04), dyslipidemia (OR 3.4, p=0.04), and mixed racial background (OR 8.3, p=0.04). Factors associated with IMT measurements in the highest quartile were piHDL (OR 2.5, p=0.02), age (OR 1.1, p<0.001), body mass index (OR 1.07, p=0.04), lifetime prednisone dose > 20g (OR 2.8, p=0.04), and African American race (OR 8.3, p=0.001).
Dysfunctional piHDL greatly increases risk for subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE; they associate with increased prevalence of carotid plaque and with high IMT. The presence of piHDL may help identify patients at risk for atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC2753974  PMID: 19644959
24.  Cutting Edge: Regulatory T Cells Directly Suppress B Cells in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus1 
In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), adaptive CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) suppress Th cells that help autoantibody (autoAb)-producing B cells. It is not known whether naturally occurring Tregs can directly suppress B cells in SLE without an intermediate suppression of Th cells. This aspect is important for its implications in the natural course of SLE, because most if not all of the clinical and pathologic effects in SLE are associated with a dysregulated production of autoAbs. In this study, we show that natural Tregs can inhibit B cell activity in vitro and in vivo in SLE through cell contact-mediated mechanisms that directly suppress autoAb-producing B cells, including those B cells that increase numerically during active disease. These results indicate that one way by which natural Tregs attempt to limit humoral autoimmunity in SLE is by directly targeting autoreactive B cells.
PMCID: PMC2730469  PMID: 19570829
25.  Modulation of p38 MAP kinase activity in regulatory T cells after tolerance with anti-DNA Ig peptide in (NZB × NZW)F1 lupus mice 
Treatment of (NZB × NZW)F1 (NZB/W) lupus-prone mice with the anti-DNA Ig-based peptide pCons prolongs the survival of treated animals and effectively delays the appearance of autoantibodies and glomerulonephritis. We have previously shown that part of these protective effects associated with the induction of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) that suppressed autoantibody responses. Since the effects of pCons appeared secondary to qualitative rather than quantitative changes in Tregs, we investigated the molecular events induced by tolerance in Tregs and found that signaling pathways including ZAP70, p27, STAT1, STAT3, STAT6, SAPK, ERK and JNK were not significantly affected. However, peptide tolerization affected in Tregs the activity of the mitogen-activated protein kinase p38, whose phosphorylation was reduced by tolerance. The pharmacologic inhibition of p38 with the pyridinyl imidazole inhibitor SB203580 in naïve NZB/W mice reproduced in vivo the effects of peptide-induced tolerance and protected mice from lupus-like disease. Transfer experiments confirmed the role of p38 in Tregs on disease activity in the NZB/W mice. These data indicate that the modulation of p38 activity in lupus Tregs can significantly influence the disease activity.
PMCID: PMC2758643  PMID: 19494264

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