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author:("Li, zhang")
1.  Toll-Like Receptors Expressed by Synovial Fibroblasts Perpetuate Th1 and Th17 Cell Responses in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100266.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by synovial fibroblast hyperplasia and bone and cartilage erosion. Synovial fibroblast- and T cell-mediated inflammation plays crucial roles in the pathogenesis of RA. However how this inflammation is initiated, propagated, and maintained remains controversial. Here, we systemically examined the contribution of toll-like receptors (TLRs) to the inflammatory mediator production as well as Th1 and Th17 cell hyperactivity in RA. Our results show that rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) express a series of TLRs, including TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, and TLR9, with the predominant expression of TLR3. Moreover, the expression levels of these TLRs were higher than those in osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts (OASF). Ligation of TLR3, as well as TLR2 and TLR4, resulted in vigorous production of inflammatory cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in RASF, with activation of the NF-κB, MAPK, and IRF3 pathways. More important, activation of these TLRs expressed by RASF exacerbated inflammatory Th1 and Th17 cell expansion both in cell-cell contact-dependent and inflammatory cytokine-dependent manners, which induced more IFN-γ and IL-17 accumulation. Targeting TLRs may modulate the inflammation in RA and provide new therapeutic strategies for overcoming this persistent disease.
PMCID: PMC4061069  PMID: 24936783
2.  Genetic variant in IL33 is associated with susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2014;16(2):R105.
Interleukin (IL)-33 is a proinflammatory cytokine contributing to the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The gene encoding IL-33 may serve as a genetic factor and be associated with the risk of RA. To investigate the potential association between IL33 and RA, we performed a case–control study based on Chinese Han population.
A three-stage case–control study was performed. Two tag single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (rs7044343 and rs10975514), mapping to the IL33 gene, were first genotyped in the discovery population. We further genotyped rs7044343 and rs10975514 in the validation and replication population. The associations between the two tag SNPs and phenotypic subgroups of RA and levels of serum IL-33 were assessed with a logistic regression model.
In the discovery population, the CC genotype of rs7044343 was associated with RA patients (odds ratio (OR) = 0.777, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.611 to 0.988; P = 0.040). After anti-citrullinated peptide antibody (ACPA) stratification, the CC genotype of rs7044343 was also shown to be a protective genotype in RA without ACPA (OR = 0.610; 95% CI, 0.379 to 0.982; P = 0.042). In the validation population and replication population, the association between rs7044343 and RA, especially ACPA-negative RA, was still significant. A meta-analysis of discovery, validation, and replication panels confirmed the association between CC genotype of rs7044343 and RA (Pcombined = 0.0004; ORcombined = 0.77; 95% CI, 0.67 to 0.89). No evidence was found for heterogeneity between three sample sets (Phet = 0.99; I2 = 0%). Similar results were also obtained in ACPA-negative RA (Pcombined = 0.0002; ORcombined = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.43 to 0.77). No association was detected between rs10975514 polymorphism and RA susceptibility in the discovery and validation population. The serum levels of IL-33 were significantly lower in the patients with the rs7044343 CC genotype.
The CC genotype of rs7044343 in IL33 is associated with RA patients and downregulates IL-33 expression in RA.
PMCID: PMC4075243  PMID: 24779919
3.  The Expression and Clinical Significance of Different Forms of Mer Receptor Tyrosine Kinase in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Journal of Immunology Research  2014;2014:431896.
Objective. To investigate the expression and clinical significance of trans-membrane MerTK (mMer) on circulating CD14+ monocytes/macrophages and soluble MerTK (sMer) levels in plasma in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Method. 108 SLE patients and 42 healthy controls were recruited in this study. The expression of mMer on the surfaces of CD14+ monocytes/macrophages was evaluated by flow cytometry (FCM). The sMer levels were measured by ELISA. Real-time quantitative PCR was applied to evaluate the mRNA levels of MerTK and ADAM17. Results. Both mMer expression on CD14+ monocytes/macrophages and sMer levels in plasma significantly increased in SLE patients compared to healthy subjects. The frequency of anti-inflammatory MerTK expressing CD14+CD16+ monocytes decreased in SLE. mMer expression was positively correlated with CD163 expression on CD14+ cells. Both the mMer expression on CD14+ monocytes/macrophages and sMer levels in plasma were positively correlated with SLEDAI. Furthermore, more elevated mMer and sMer levels were found in patients with higher SLEDAI, presence of anti-SSA, anti-Sm autoantibodies, and lupus nephritis. Conclusion. Both mMer and sMer levels significantly increased in SLE and positively correlated with disease activity and severity. The upregulation of MerTK expression may serve as a biomarker of the disease activity and severity of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3987794  PMID: 24741600
4.  Upregulated MicroRNA-155 Expression in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells and Fibroblast-Like Synoviocytes in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Objective. This study was to screen for the miRNAs differently expressed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of RA, to further identify the expression of miR-155 in RA PBMC and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS), and to evaluate the function of miR-155 in RA-FLS. Methods. Microarray was used to screen for differentially expressed miRNAs in RA PBMC. miR-155 expression in PBMC and FLS of RA were identified by real-time PCR. Enforced overexpression and downexpression of miR-155 were used to investigate the function of miR-155 in RA-FLS. Expression of IKBKE which was previously identified as the actual target of miR-155 was examined by Western blot and real-time PCR in RA-FLS. Results. miR-155 levels were increased in both PBMC and FLS of RA and could be induced by TNF-α. Upregulation of miR-155 decreased MMP-3 levels and suppressed proliferation and invasion of RA-FLS. Inverse relationship between the expressions of miR-155 and the MMPs production-related protein IKBKE was found. Conclusion. An inflammatory milieu may alter miRNA expression profiles in rheumatoid arthritis. miR-155 is upregulated in RA-FLS, and it may be a protective factor against the inflammatory effect in part by attenuating expression of IKBKE.
PMCID: PMC3789322  PMID: 24151514
5.  Increased IL-33 in Synovial Fluid and Paired Serum Is Associated with Disease Activity and Autoantibodies in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
Objectives. IL-33, a newly found cytokine which is involved in joint inflammation, could be blocked by a decoy receptor—sST2. The expression and correlation of IL-33 and sST2 in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are of great interest. Methods. Synovial fluid (SF) was obtained from 120 RA and 30 osteoarthritis (OA) patients, and paired sera were collected from 54 of these RA patients. The levels of IL-33 and sST2 were measured by ELISA. Results. SF IL-33 was significantly higher in RA than in OA, which was correlated with disease activity score 28, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, rheumatoid factor (RF)-IgM, RF-IgG, glucose phosphate isomerase (GPI), and immunoglobulin. Serum IL-33 was correlated positively with SF IL-33 in RA. Furthermore, it was correlated with RF-IgM and GPI. sST2 was partly detectable in RA (13 out of 54, 24.1%), while not in OA. Serum sST2 in RA had no significant correlation with serum IL-33 or SF IL-33. However, SFs from both RA and OA patients did not express sST2. Conclusions. This study supported that IL-33 played an important role in the local pathogenesis of RA. Considering the tight correlation between IL-33 and clinical features, it may become a new target of local treatment.
PMCID: PMC3782822  PMID: 24106520
6.  Correction: Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α and Interleukin 33 Form a Regulatory Circuit to Perpetuate the Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):10.1371/annotation/f61a5d49-25e7-47ce-8509-6478df526886.
PMCID: PMC3758480  PMID: 24039654
7.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α and Interleukin 33 Form a Regulatory Circuit to Perpetuate the Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72650.
Hyperplasia of synovial fibroblasts, infiltration with inflammatory cytokines, and tissue hypoxia are the major characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Interleukin 33 (IL-33) is a newly identified inflammatory cytokine exacerbating the disease severity of RA. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) showed increased expression in RA synovium and could regulate a number of inflammatory cytokine productions. Nevertheless, its correlation with IL-33 remains largely unknown. Here, we showed that elevated levels of IL-33 were demonstrated in RA patient synovial fluids, with upregulated expression of HIF-1α and IL-33 in the synovial fibroblasts. Knocking down HIF-1α compromised IL-33 expression in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF), while enforcing HIF-1α expression in RASF substantially upregulated IL-33 levels. HIF-1α promoted the activation of the signalling pathways controlling IL-33 production, particularly the p38 and ERK pathways. Moreover, we showed for the first time that IL-33 in turn could induce more HIF-1α expression in RASF, thus forming a HIF-1α/IL-33 regulatory circuit that would perpetuate the inflammatory process in RA. Targeting this pathological pathway and HIF-1α may provide new therapeutic strategies for overcoming the persistent and chronic inflammatory disease.
PMCID: PMC3744448  PMID: 23967327
8.  A Replication Study Confirms the Association of Dendritic Cell Immunoreceptor (DCIR) Polymorphisms with ACPA - Negative RA in a Large Asian Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41228.
Dendritic cell immunoreceptor (DCIR) has been implicated in development of autoimmune disorders in rodent and DCIR polymorphisms were associated with anti-citrullinated proteins antibodies (ACPA)-negative rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Swedish Caucasians. This study was undertaken to further investigate whether DCIR polymorphisms are also risk factors for the development of RA in four Asian populations originated from China and Malaysia.
We genotyped two DCIR SNPs rs2377422 and rs10840759 in Han Chinese population (1,193 cases, 1,278 controls), to assess their association with RA. Subsequently, rs2377422 was further genotyped in three independent cohorts of Malaysian-Chinese subjects (MY_Chinese, 254 cases, 206 controls), Malay subjects (MY_ Malay, 515 cases, 986 controls), and Malaysian-Indian subjects (MY_Indian, 378 cases, 285 controls), to seek confirmation of association in various ethnic groups. Meta-analysis was preformed to evaluate the contribution of rs2377422 polymorphisms to the development of ACPA-negative RA in distinct ethnic groups. Finally, we carried out association analysis of rs2377422 polymorphisms with DCIR mRNA expression levels.
DCIR rs2377422 was found to be significantly associated with ACPA -negative RA in Han Chinese (OR 1.92, 95% CI 1.27–2.90, P = 0.0020). Meta-analysis confirms DCIR rs2377422 as a risk factor for ACPA-negative RA across distinct ethnic groups (ORoverall = 1.17, 95% CI 1.06–1.30, P = 0.003). The SNP rs2377422 polymorphism showed significant association with DCIR mRNA expression level, i.e. RA-risk CC genotype exhibit a significant increase in the expression of DCIR (P = 0.0023, Kruskal–Wallis).
Our data provide evidence for association between DCIR rs2377422 and RA in non-Caucasian populations and confirm the influence of DCIR polymorphisms on RA susceptibility, especially on ACPA-negative RA.
PMCID: PMC3400585  PMID: 22829930
10.  Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(6):R210.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a T-cell-mediated systemic autoimmune disease, characterized by synovium inflammation and articular destruction. Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could be effective in the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. However, there has been thus far no report on umbilical cord (UC)-MSCs in the treatment of RA. Here, potential immunosuppressive effects of human UC-MSCs in RA were evaluated.
The effects of UC-MSCs on the responses of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) and T cells in RA patients were explored. The possible molecular mechanism mediating this immunosuppressive effect of UC-MSCs was explored by addition of inhibitors to indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), Nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) and interleukin 10 (IL-10). The therapeutic effects of systemic infusion of human UC-MSCs on collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in a mouse model were explored.
In vitro, UC-MSCs were capable of inhibiting proliferation of FLSs from RA patients, via IL-10, IDO and TGF-β1. Furthermore, the invasive behavior and IL-6 secretion of FLSs were also significantly suppressed. On the other hand, UC-MSCs induced hyporesponsiveness of T cells mediated by PGE2, TGF-β1 and NO and UC-MSCs could promote the expansion of CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T cells from RA patients. More importantly, systemic infusion of human UC-MSCs reduced the severity of CIA in a mouse model. Consistently, there were reduced levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines (TNF-α, IL-6 and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1) and increased levels of the anti-inflammatory/regulatory cytokine (IL-10) in sera of UC-MSCs treated mice. Moreover, such treatment shifted Th1/Th2 type responses and induced Tregs in CIA.
In conclusion, human UC-MSCs suppressed the various inflammatory effects of FLSs and T cells of RA in vitro, and attenuated the development of CIA in vivo, strongly suggesting that UC-MSCs might be a therapeutic strategy in RA. In addition, the immunosuppressive activitiy of UC-MSCs could be prolonged by the participation of Tregs.
PMCID: PMC3046518  PMID: 21080925
11.  The Protective Antibodies Induced by a Novel Epitope of Human TNF-α Could Suppress the Development of Collagen-Induced Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8920.
Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is a major inflammatory mediator that exhibits actions leading to tissue destruction and hampering recovery from damage. At present, two antibodies against human TNF-α (hTNF-α) are available, which are widely used for the clinic treatment of certain inflammatory diseases. This work was undertaken to identify a novel functional epitope of hTNF-α. We performed screening peptide library against anti-hTNF-α antibodies, ELISA and competitive ELISA to obtain the epitope of hTNF-α. The key residues of the epitope were identified by means of combinatorial alanine scanning and site-specific mutagenesis. The N terminus (80–91 aa) of hTNF-α proved to be a novel epitope (YG1). The two amino acids of YG1, proline and valine, were identified as the key residues, which were important for hTNF-α biological function. Furthermore, the function of the epitope was addressed on an animal model of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). CIA could be suppressed in an animal model by prevaccination with the derivative peptides of YG1. The antibodies of YG1 could also inhibit the cytotoxicity of hTNF-α. These results demonstrate that YG1 is a novel epitope associated with the biological function of hTNF-α and the antibodies against YG1 can inhibit the development of CIA in animal model, so it would be a potential target of new therapeutic antibodies.
PMCID: PMC2811745  PMID: 20111721
12.  Mucosal administration of α-fodrin inhibits experimental Sjögren's syndrome autoimmunity 
α-Fodrin is an autoantigen in Sjögren's syndrome. We hypothesized that mucosal administration of α-fodrin might prevent the disease.
Four-week-old NOD mice were immunized (intranasal) with a 1 μg or 10 μg dose of α-fodrin every other day. PBS 10 μl/dose and Glutathione transferase (GST 10 μg/dose (control mice) were intranasally administrated by the same procedure. The salivary flow was maintained in immunized animals. The animals were analyzed for the presence of anti-Sjögren's syndrome A, anti-Sjögren's syndrome B, rheumatoid factor and antinuclear, anti-α-fodrin, and anti-type 3 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor polypeptide (anti-M3RP) by immunofluorescence or ELISA. The cytokines IFNγ and IL-10 were measured by ELISA. Salivary glands were examined by H&E staining and immunohistochemical analysis. The water-volume intake was calculated for each group. The induction of regulatory T cells was assessed by fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis for the frequency of Foxp3+ cells among peripheral CD4+CD25+ T cells.
The appearance of anti-α-fodrin and anti-M3RP antibodies was delayed in mice immunized with α-fodrin. The titers of anti-α-fodrin and anti-M3RP antibodies were lower in immunized mice (P < 0.05), but there was no significant difference between the low-dose or high-dose immunization groups. Five out of eight mice in the GST group, five of eight mice in the PBS group, two of eight mice in the α-fodrin 1 μg/dose group, and three out of eight mice in the α-fodrin 10 μg/dose were positive for antinuclear antibodies. The levels of serum IFNγ in mice immunized with 1 μg/dose or 10 μg/dose α-fodrin, with PBS, and with GST were 41.9 ± 16.2 pg/ml, 37.1 ± 15.4 pg/ml, 86.8 ± 17.8 pg/ml and 71.6 ± 11.1 pg/ml, respectively, while we found no difference in the levels of serum IL-10 among the groups. The number of Foxp3+ CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells was higher in the α-fodrin groups compared with the PBS and GST control groups (P < 0.05). Lymphocytic infiltration and expression of α-fodrin in the salivary glands was decreased in α-fodrin-treated groups. The fluid intake of mice in the 1 μg/dose α-fodrin, 10 μg/dose α-fodrin, PBS, and GST groups was 39.2 ± 2.1 ml, 40.4 ± 2.5 ml, 49.3 ± 3.1 ml and 51.6 ± 2.8 ml, respectively.
Mucosal administration of α-fodrin effectively inhibited the progression of experimental Sjögren's syndrome autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2453764  PMID: 18419828
13.  The rheumatoid arthritis shared epitope increases cellular susceptibility to oxidative stress by antagonizing an adenosine-mediated anti-oxidative pathway 
We have recently demonstrated that the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) shared epitope (SE) acts as a ligand that triggers nitric oxide (NO) signaling in opposite cells. Given the known pro-oxidative effect of NO and the proposed role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of RA, this study explores whether SE-triggered signaling can increase cellular oxidative stress. cAMP levels, adenylyl cyclase activity, and protein kinase A activity were measured using commercial kits. Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was quantified using the fluorochrome dichlorofluorescein diacetate. Oxidative DNA damage was quantified using the single-cell electrophoresis technique. Here, we report that cells exposed to cell surface SE-positive HLA-DR (human leukocyte antigen-DR) molecules, to cell-free recombinant proteins genetically engineered to express the SE motif, or to SE-positive synthetic peptide showed diminished cAMP-dependent signaling, increased ROS levels, and higher vulnerability to oxidative DNA damage. Introduction of single amino acid substitutions into SE-positive peptides revealed a consensus five-amino acid sequence motif of Q/R-K/R-X-X-A that is necessary and sufficient for SE-triggered signaling. The pro-oxidative effect of the SE could be reversed by inhibiting NO production. We conclude that the SE acts as a signaling ligand that activates an NO-mediated pro-oxidative pathway. The potential contribution of this signaling aberration to RA pathogenesis is discussed.
PMCID: PMC1865041  PMID: 17254342

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