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1.  B Lymphocyte Stimulator Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Higher Circulating Levels in African American Patients and Increased Production after Influenza Vaccination in Patients with Low Baseline Levels 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2011;63(12):3931-3941.
Objective
Examine the relationship between circulating B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS) levels and humoral responses to influenza vaccination in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, as well as the effect of vaccination on BLyS levels. Clinical and serologic features of SLE that are associated with elevated BLyS levels will also be investigated.
Methods
Clinical history, disease activity measurements and blood specimens were collected from sixty SLE patients at baseline and after influenza vaccination. Sera were tested for BLyS levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies, serum IFN-α activity, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and humoral responses to influenza vaccination.
Results
Thirty percent of SLE patients had elevated BLyS levels, with African American patients having higher BLyS levels than European American patients (p=0.006). Baseline BLyS levels in patients were not correlated with humoral responses to influenza vaccination (p=0.863), and BLyS levels increased post-vaccination only in the subset of patients in the lowest quartile of BLyS levels (p=0.0003). Elevated BLyS levels were associated with increased disease activity as measured by SLEDAI, PGA, and SLAM in European Americans (p=0.035, p=0.016, p=0.018, respectively), but not in African Americans. Elevated BLyS levels were also associated with anti-nRNP (p=0.0003) and decreased 25(OH)D (p=0.018). Serum IFN-α activity was a significant predictor of elevated BLyS in a multivariate analysis (p=0.002).
Conclusion
African American SLE patients have higher BLyS levels regardless of disease activity. Humoral response to influenza vaccination is not correlated with baseline BLyS levels in SLE patients and only those patients with low baseline BLyS levels demonstrate an increased BLyS response after vaccination.
doi:10.1002/art.30598
PMCID: PMC3234134  PMID: 22127709
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Cytokines
2.  Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased autoimmune response in healthy individuals and in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2011;70(9):1569-1574.
Objectives
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread and has been associated with many chronic diseases, including autoimmune disorders. A study was undertaken to explore the impact of low vitamin D levels on autoantibody production in healthy individuals, as well as B cell hyperactivity and interferon α (IFNα) activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods
Serum samples from 32 European American female patients with SLE and 32 matched controls were tested for 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels, lupus-associated autoantibodies and serum IFNα activity. Isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells were tested for intracellular phospho-ERK 1/2 as a measure of B cell activation status.
Results
Vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D <20 ng/ml) was significantly more frequent among patients with SLE (n=32, 69%) and antinuclear antibody (ANA)-positive controls (n=14, 71%) compared with ANA-negative controls (n=18, 22%) (OR 7.7, 95% CI 2.0 to 29.4, p=0.003 and OR 8.8, 95% CI 1.8 to 43.6, p=0.011, respectively). Patients with high B cell activation had lower mean (SD) 25(OH)D levels than patients with low B cell activation (17.2 (5.1) vs 24.2 (3.9) ng/ml; p=0.009). Patients with vitamin D deficiency also had higher mean (SD) serum IFNα activity than patients without vitamin D deficiency (3.5 (6.6) vs 0.3 (0.3); p=0.02).
Conclusions
The observation that ANA-positive healthy controls are significantly more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than ANA-negative healthy controls, together with the finding that vitamin D deficiency is associated with certain immune abnormalities in SLE, suggests that vitamin D plays an important role in autoantibody production and SLE pathogenesis.
doi:10.1136/ard.2010.148494
PMCID: PMC3149865  PMID: 21586442
3.  Ribosomal P Autoantibodies are Present Before SLE Onset and are Directed Against non-C Terminal Peptides 
Autoantibodies to ribosomal P are found in 15–30% of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and are highly specific for SLE. The goal of this study is to assess the temporal association of anti-ribosomal P (anti-P) responses with SLE disease onset, as well as to characterize the humoral ribosomal P (ribo P) epitopes targeted in early, pre-diagnostic SLE samples. Patients with stored serial serum samples available prior to SLE diagnosis were identified from a military cohort. Each sample was tested for antibodies against ribo P utilizing standard C-terminus ribo P ELISAs and a solid phase, bead-based assay with affinity-purified ribo P proteins. In this study, antibodies to ribo P were more common in African American SLE patients (p= 0.026), and anti-P positive patients comprised a group with more measured autoantibody specificities than did other SLE patients (3.5 vs. 2.2, p<0.05). Antibodies against ribo P were present on average 1.7 years before SLE diagnosis and were detected an average of 1.08 years earlier in pre-diagnostic SLE samples using affinity-purified whole protein rather than C- terminal peptide alone (p=0.0019). Furthermore, 61% of anti-P positive patients initially had antibodies to aa 99–113, a known ribosomal P0 antigenic target, at a time point when no antibodies to the clinically used C-terminus were detected. Our findings provide evidence that antibodies against ribosomal P frequently develop before clinical SLE diagnosis and are more broadly reactive than previously thought by targeting regions outside of the C-terminus.
doi:10.1007/s00109-010-0618-1
PMCID: PMC2877769  PMID: 20396862
lupus; antibodies; autoimmunity; ribosomal P; epitope
4.  60 kD Ro and nRNP A Frequently Initiate Human Lupus Autoimmunity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9599.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a clinically heterogeneous, humoral autoimmune disorder. The unifying feature among SLE patients is the production of large quantities of autoantibodies. Serum samples from 129 patients collected before the onset of SLE and while in the United States military were evaluated for early pre-clinical serologic events. The first available positive serum sample frequently already contained multiple autoantibody specificities (65%). However, in 34 SLE patients the earliest pre-clinical serum sample positive for any detectable common autoantibody bound only a single autoantigen, most commonly 60 kD Ro (29%), nRNP A (24%), anti-phospholipids (18%) or rheumatoid factor (15%). We identified several recurrent patterns of autoantibody onset using these pre-diagnostic samples. In the serum samples available, anti-nRNP A appeared before or simultaneously with anti-nRNP 70 K in 96% of the patients who had both autoantibodies at diagnosis. Anti-60 kD Ro antibodies appeared before or simultaneously with anti-La (98%) or anti-52 kD Ro (95%). The autoantibody response in SLE patients begins simply, often binding a single specific autoantigen years before disease onset, followed by epitope spreading to additional autoantigenic specificities that are accrued in recurring patterns.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009599
PMCID: PMC2835743  PMID: 20224770

Results 1-4 (4)