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1.  The sepsis model: An emerging hypothesis for the lethality of inhalation anthrax 
Inhalation anthrax is often described as a toxin-mediated disease. However, the toxemia model does not account for the high mortality of inhalation anthrax relative to other forms of the disease or for the pathology present in inhalation anthrax. Patients with inhalation anthrax consistently show extreme bacteremia and, in contrast to animals challenged with toxin, signs of sepsis. Rather than toxemia, we propose that death in inhalation anthrax results from an overwhelming bacteremia that leads to severe sepsis. According to our model, the central role of anthrax toxin is to permit the vegetative bacteria to escape immune detection. Other forms of B. anthracis infection have lower mortality because their overt symptoms early in the course of disease cause patients to seek medical care at a time when the infection and its sequelae can still be reversed by antibiotics. Thus, the sepsis model explains key features of inhalation anthrax and may offer a more complete understanding of disease pathology for researchers as well as those involved in the care of patients.
doi:10.1111/jcmm.12075
PMCID: PMC3729634  PMID: 23742651
Sepsis; anthrax; lethal factor; edema factor; disseminated intravascular coagulation; Gram-positive
2.  Fully Human Monoclonal Antibodies from Antibody Secreting Cells after Vaccination with Pneumovax®23 are Serotype Specific and Facilitate Opsonophagocytosis 
Immunobiology  2012;218(5):745-754.
B lymphocyte memory generates antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) that represent a source of protective antibodies that may be exploited for therapeutics. Here we vaccinated four donors with Pneumovax23 and produced human monoclonal antibodies (hmAbs) from ASCs. We have cloned 137 hmAbs and the specificities of these antibodies encompass 19 of the 23 serotypes in the vaccine, as well as cell wall polysaccharide (CWPS). Although the majority of the antibodies are serotype specific, 12% cross-react with two serotypes. The Pneumovax23 ASC antibody sequences are highly mutated and clonal, indicating an anamnestic response, even though this was a primary vaccination. Hmabs from 64% of the clonal families facilitate opsonophagocytosis. Although 9% of the total antibodies bind to CWPS impurity in the vaccine, none of these clonal families showed opsonophagocytic activity. Overall, these studies have allowed us to address unanswered questions in the field of human immune responses to polysaccharide vaccines, including the cross-reactivity of individual antibodies between serotypes and the percentage of antibodies that are protective after vaccination with Pneumovax23.
doi:10.1016/j.imbio.2012.08.278
PMCID: PMC3556204  PMID: 23084371
Antibody secreting cells; B cell memory; human monoclonal antibodies; Pneumovax; Streptococcus pneumoniae
3.  End-Stage Renal Disease in African Americans With Lupus Nephritis Is Associated With APOL1 
Objective
Lupus nephritis (LN) is a severe manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) that exhibits familial aggregation and may progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). LN is more prevalent among African Americans than among European Americans. This study was undertaken to investigate the hypothesis that the apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) nephropathy risk alleles G1/G2, common in African Americans and rare in European Americans, contribute to the ethnic disparity in risk.
Methods
APOL1 G1 and G2 nephropathy alleles were genotyped in 855 African American SLE patients with LN-ESRD (cases) and 534 African American SLE patients without nephropathy (controls) and tested for association under a recessive genetic model, by logistic regression.
Results
Ninety percent of the SLE patients were female. The mean ± SD age at SLE diagnosis was significantly lower in LN-ESRD cases than in SLE non-nephropathy controls (27.3 ± 10.9 years versus 39.5 ± 12.2 years). The mean ± SD time from SLE diagnosis to development of LN-ESRD in cases was 7.3 ± 7.2 years. The G1/G2 risk alleles were strongly associated with SLE-ESRD, with 25% of cases and 12% of controls having 2 nephropathy alleles (odds ratio [OR] 2.57, recessive model P = 1.49 × 10−9), and after adjustment for age, sex, and ancestry admixture (OR 2.72, P = 6.23 × 10−6). The age-, sex-, and admixture-adjusted population attributable risk for ESRD among patients with G1/G2 polymorphisms was 0.26, compared to 0.003 among European American patients. The mean time from SLE diagnosis to ESRD development was ~2 years earlier among individuals with APOL1 risk genotypes (P = 0.01).
Conclusion
APOL1 G1/G2 alleles strongly impact the risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans, as well as the time to progression to ESRD. The high frequency of these alleles in African Americans with near absence in European Americans explains an important proportion of the increased risk of LN-ESRD in African Americans.
doi:10.1002/art.38220
PMCID: PMC4002759  PMID: 24504811
4.  Vitamin D Deficiency in a Multiethnic Healthy Control Cohort and Altered Immune Response in Vitamin D Deficient European-American Healthy Controls 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e94500.
Objective
In recent years, vitamin D has been shown to possess a wide range of immunomodulatory effects. Although there is extensive amount of research on vitamin D, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency or the mechanism by which vitamin D regulates the human immune system. This study examined the prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency and the relationship between vitamin D and the immune system in healthy individuals.
Methods
Healthy individuals (n = 774) comprised of European-Americans (EA, n = 470), African–Americans (AA, n = 125), and Native Americans (NA, n = 179) were screened for 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels by ELISA. To identify the most noticeable effects of vitamin D on the immune system, 20 EA individuals with severely deficient (<11.3 ng/mL) and sufficient (>24.8 ng/mL) vitamin D levels were matched and selected for further analysis. Serum cytokine level measurement, immune cell phenotyping, and phosphoflow cytometry were performed.
Results
Vitamin D sufficiency was observed in 37.5% of the study cohort. By multivariate analysis, AA, NA, and females with a high body mass index (BMI, >30) demonstrate higher rates of vitamin D deficiency (p<0.05). Individuals with vitamin D deficiency had significantly higher levels of serum GM-CSF (p = 0.04), decreased circulating activated CD4+ (p = 0.04) and CD8+ T (p = 0.04) cell frequencies than individuals with sufficient vitamin D levels.
Conclusion
A large portion of healthy individuals have vitamin D deficiency. These individuals have altered T and B cell responses, indicating that the absence of sufficient vitamin D levels could result in undesirable cellular and molecular alterations ultimately contributing to immune dysregulation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094500
PMCID: PMC3984168  PMID: 24727903
5.  Stochastic humoral immunity to Bacillus anthracis Protective Antigen: Identification of anti-peptide IgG correlating with seroconversion to Lethal Toxin neutralization 
Vaccine  2013;31(14):1856-1863.
A substantial fraction of individuals vaccinated against anthrax have low to immeasurable levels of serum Lethal Toxin (LeTx)-neutralizing activity. The only known correlate of protection against Bacillus anthracis in the currently licensed vaccine is magnitude of the IgG response to Protective Antigen (PA); however, some individuals producing high serum levels of anti-PA IgG fail to neutralize LeTx in vitro. This suggests that non-protective humoral responses to PA may be immunodominant in some individuals. Therefore, to better understand why anthrax vaccination elicits heterogeneous levels of protection, this study was designed to elucidate the relationship between anti-PA fine specificity and LeTx neutralization in response to PA vaccination. Inbred mice immunized with recombinant PA produced high levels of anti-PA IgG and neutralized LeTx in vitro and in vivo. Decapeptide binding studies using pooled sera reproducibly identified the same 9 epitopes. Unexpectedly, sera from individual mice revealed substantial heterogeneity in the anti-PA IgG and LeTx neutralization responses, despite relative genetic homogeneity, shared environment and exposure to the same immunogen. This heterogeneity permitted the identification of specificities that correlate with LeTx-neutralizing activity. IgG binding to six decapeptides comprising two PA epitopes, located in domains I and IV, significantly correlate with seroconversion to LeTx neutralization. These results indicate that stochastic variation in humoral immunity is likely to be a major contributor to the general problem of heterogeneity in vaccine responsiveness and suggest that vaccine effectiveness could be improved by approaches that focus the humoral response toward protective epitopes in a greater fraction of vaccinees.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.01.040
PMCID: PMC3614092  PMID: 23415781
Bacillus anthracis; Protective antigen; Vaccine; B cell epitope; Mice
6.  Functional characterization of the MECP2/IRAK1 lupus risk haplotype in human T cells and a human MECP2 transgenic mouse 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;41:168-174.
Genetic polymorphism in MECP2/IRAK1 on chromosome Xq28 is a confirmed and replicated susceptibility locus for lupus. High linkage disequilibrium in this locus suggests that both MECP2 and IRAK1 are candidate genes for the disease. DNA methylation changes in lupus T cells play a central role in the pathogenesis of lupus, and MeCp-2 (encoded by MECP2) is a master regulator of gene expression and is also known to recruit DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) during DNA synthesis. Using human T cells from normal individuals with either the lupus risk or the lupus protective haplotype in MECP2/IRAK1, we demonstrate that polymorphism in this locus increases MECP2 isoform 2 mRNA expression in stimulated but not unstimulated T cells. By assessing DNA methylation levels across over 485,000 methylation sites across the entire genome, we further demonstrate that the lupus risk variant in this locus is associated with significant DNA methylation changes, including in the HLA-DR and HLA-DQ loci, as well as interferon-related genes such as IFI6, IRF6, and BST2. Further, using a human MECP2 transgenic mouse, we show that overexpression of MECP2 alters gene expression in stimulated T cells. This includes overexpression of Eif2c2 that regulates the expression of multiple microRNAs (such as miR-21), and the histone demethylase Jhdm1d. In addition, we show that MECP2 transgenic mice develop antinuclear antibodies. Our data suggest that the lupus associated variant in the MECP2/IRAK1 locus has the potential to affect all 3 epigenetic mechanisms: DNA methylation, microRNA expression, and histone modification. Importantly, these data support the notion that variants within the MECP2 gene can alter DNA methylation in other genetic loci including the HLA and interferon-regulated genes, thereby providing evidence for genetic-epigenetic interaction in lupus.
doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2012.12.012
PMCID: PMC3622940  PMID: 23428850
MECP2; IRAK1; lupus; epigenetics; polymorphism; DNA methylation; T cells; transgenic mouse
7.  Dense genotyping of immune-related disease regions identifies 14 new susceptibility loci for juvenile idiopathic arthritis 
Nature genetics  2013;45(6):664-669.
Analysis of the ImmunoChip single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array in 2816 individuals, comprising the most common subtypes (oligoarticular and RF negative polyarticular) of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and 13056 controls strengthens the evidence for association to three known JIA-risk loci (HLA, PTPN22 and PTPN2) and has identified fourteen risk loci reaching genome-wide significance (p < 5 × 10-8) for the first time. Eleven additional novel regions showed suggestive evidence for association with JIA (p < 1 × 10-6). Dense-mapping of loci along with bioinformatic analysis has refined the association to one gene for eight regions, highlighting crucial pathways, including the IL-2 pathway, in JIA disease pathogenesis. The entire ImmunoChip loci, HLA region and the top 27 loci (p < 1 × 10-6) explain an estimated 18%, 13% and 6% risk of JIA, respectively. Analysis of the ImmunoChip dataset, the largest cohort of JIA cases investigated to date, provides new insight in understanding the genetic basis for this childhood autoimmune disease.
doi:10.1038/ng.2614
PMCID: PMC3673707  PMID: 23603761
8.  Two Independent Functional Risk Haplotypes in TNIP1 are Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3695-3705.
Objective
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by autoantibody production and altered type I interferon expression. Genetic surveys and genome-wide association studies have identified more than 30 SLE susceptibility genes. One of these genes, TNIP1, encodes the ABIN1 protein. ABIN1 functions in the immune system by restricting the NF-κB signaling. In order to better understand the genetic factors that influence association with SLE in genes that regulate the NF-κB pathway, we analyzed a dense set of genetic markers spanning TNIP1 and TAX1BP1, as well as the TNIP1 homolog, TNIP2, in case-control sets of diverse ethnic origins.
Methods
We fine-mapped TNIP1, TNIP2, and TAX1BP1 in a total of 8372 SLE cases and 7492 healthy controls from European-ancestry, African-American, Hispanic, East Asian, and African-American Gullah populations. Levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein were analyzed using quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting, respectively, in EBV-transformed human B cell lines.
Results
We found significant associations between genetic variants within TNIP1 and SLE but not in TNIP2 or TAX1BP1. After resequencing and imputation, we identified two independent risk haplotypes within TNIP1 in individuals of European-ancestry that were also present in African-American and Hispanic populations. These risk haplotypes produced lower levels of TNIP1 mRNA and ABIN1 protein suggesting they harbor hypomorphic functional variants that influence susceptibility to SLE by restricting ABIN1 expression.
Conclusion
Our results confirmed the association signals between SLE and TNIP1 variants in multiple populations and provide new insight into the mechanism by which TNIP1 variants may contribute to SLE pathogenesis.
doi:10.1002/art.34642
PMCID: PMC3485412  PMID: 22833143
9.  Impact of Genetic Ancestry and Socio-Demographic Status on the Clinical Expression of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Amerindian-European Populations 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3687-3694.
Objective
Amerindian-Europeans, Asians and African-Americans have an excess morbidity from SLE and higher prevalence of lupus nephritis than Caucasians. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between genetic ancestry and socio-demographic characteristics and clinical features in a large cohort of Amerindian-European SLE patients.
Methods
A total of 2116 SLE patients of Amerindian-European origin and 4001 SLE patients of European descent with clinical data were used in the study. Genotyping of 253 continental ancestry informative markers was performed on the Illumina platform. The STRUCTURE and ADMIXTURE software were used to determine genetic ancestry of each individual. Correlation between ancestry and socio-demographic and clinical data were analyzed using logistic regression.
Results
The average Amerindian genetic ancestry of 2116 SLE patients was 40.7%. There was an increased risk of having renal involvement (P<0.0001, OR= 3.50 95%CI 2.63-4.63) and an early age of onset with the presence of Amerindian genetic ancestry (P<0.0001). Amerindian ancestry protected against photosensitivity (P<0.0001, OR= 0.58 95%CI 0.44-0.76), oral ulcers (P<0.0001, OR= 0.55 95%CI 0.42-0.72), and serositis (P<0.0001, OR= 0.56 95%CI 0.41-0.75) after adjustment by age, gender and age of onset. However, gender and age of onset had stronger effects on malar rash, discoid rash, arthritis and neurological involvement than genetic ancestry.
Conclusion
In general, genetic Amerindian ancestry correlates with lower socio-demographic status and increases the risk for developing renal involvement and SLE at an earlier age of onset.
doi:10.1002/art.34650
PMCID: PMC3485439  PMID: 22886787
10.  Comparison of autoantibody specificities between traditional and bead-based assays in a large, diverse collection of SLE patients and family members 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(11):3677-3686.
Objective
The replacement of standard immunofluorescence anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) methods with bead-based assays is a new clinical option. A large, multi-racial cohort of SLE patients, blood relatives and unaffected control individuals was evaluated for familial aggregation and subset clustering of autoantibodies by high-throughput serum screening technology and traditional methods.
Methods
Serum samples (1,540 SLE patients, 1,127 unaffected relatives, and 906 healthy, population-based controls) were analyzed for SLE autoantibodies using a bead-based assay, immunofluorescence, and immunodiffusion. Autoantibody prevalence, disease sensitivity, clustering, and association with standard immunodiffusion results were evaluated.
Results
ANA frequency in SLE patient sera were 89%, 73%, and 67% by BioPlex 2200 and 94%, 84%, and 86% by immunofluorescence in African-American, Hispanic, and European-American patients respectively. 60kD Ro, La, Sm, nRNP A, and ribosomal P prevalence were compared across assays, with sensitivities ranging from 0.92 to 0.83 and specificities ranging from 0.90 to 0.79. Cluster autoantibody analysis showed association of three subsets: 1) 60kD Ro, 52kD Ro and La, 2) spliceosomal proteins, and 3) dsDNA, chromatin, and ribosomal P. Familial aggregation of Sm/RNP, ribosomal P, and 60kD Ro in SLE patient sibling pairs was observed (p ≤ 0.004). Simplex pedigree patients had a greater prevalence for dsDNA (p=0.0003) and chromatin (p=0.005) autoantibodies than multiplex patients.
Conclusion
ANA frequencies detected by a bead-based assay are lower in European-American SLE patients compared to immunofluorescence. These assays have strong positive predictive values across racial groups, provide useful information for clinical care, and provide unique insights to familial aggregation and autoantibody clustering.
doi:10.1002/art.34651
PMCID: PMC3490432  PMID: 23112091
systemic lupus erythematosus; autoantibodies; ancestry
11.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003870
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
12.  Rheumatic Disease among Oklahoma Tribal Populations: A Cross-Sectional Study 
The Journal of rheumatology  2012;39(10):1934-1941.
Objectives
Rheumatic diseases cause significant morbidity within American Indian populations. Clinical disease presentations, as well as historically associated autoantibodies, are not always useful in making a rapid diagnosis or assessing prognosis. The purpose of this study is to identify autoantibody associations among Oklahoma tribal populations with rheumatic disease.
Methods
Oklahoma tribal members (110 rheumatic disease patients and 110 controls) were enrolled at tribal-based clinics. Rheumatic disease patients (suspected or confirmed diagnosis) were assessed by a rheumatologist for clinical features, disease criteria, and activity measures. Blood samples were collected and tested for common rheumatic disease autoantibodies (ANA, anti-CCP, anti-RF, anti-Ro, anti-La, anti-Sm, anti-nRNP, anti-Ribosomal P, anti-dsDNA, and anti-cardiolipins).
Results
In patients with suspected systemic rheumatic diseases, 72% satisfied ACR classification: 40 (36%) rheumatoid arthritis, 16 (15%) systemic lupus erythematosus, 8 (7%) scleroderma, 8 (7%) osteoarthritis, 4 (4%) fibromyalgia, 2 (2%) seronegative spondyloarthropathy, 1 Sjogrens syndrome, and 1 sarcoidosis. When compared to controls, RA patient sera were more likely to contain anti-CCP (55% vs 2%, p<0.001) or anti-RF IgM antibodies (57% vs 10%, p<0.001); however, the difference was greater for anti-CCP. Anti-CCP positivity conferred higher disease activity scores (DAS28 5.6 vs 4.45, p=0.021) while anti-RF positivity did not (DAS28 5.36 vs 4.64, p=0.15). Anticardiolipin antibodies (25% or rheumatic disease paitents vs 10% of contros,; p=0.0022) and ANA (63% vs 21%, p<0.0001) were more common in rheumatic disease patients.
Conclusion
Anti-CCP may serve as a better RA biomarker in AI patients, while the clinical significance of increased frequency of aCLs needs further evaluation.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.110984
PMCID: PMC3468952  PMID: 22896022
Autoimmune diseases; autoantibodies; American Indian; rheumatic disease
13.  Familial Aggregation of High Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients frequently have high circulating tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. We explored circulating TNF-α levels in SLE families to determine whether high levels of TNF-α were clustered in a heritable pattern. We measured TNF-α in 242 SLE patients, 361 unaffected family members, 23 unaffected spouses of SLE patients, and 62 unrelated healthy controls. Familial correlations and relative recurrence risk rates for the high TNF-α trait were assessed. SLE-affected individuals had the highest TNF-α levels, and TNF-α was significantly higher in unaffected first degree relatives than healthy unrelated subjects (P = 0.0025). No Mendelian patterns were observed, but 28.4% of unaffected first degree relatives of SLE patients had high TNF-α levels, resulting in a first degree relative recurrence risk of 4.48 (P = 2.9 × 10−5). Interestingly, the median TNF-α value in spouses was similar to that of the first degree relatives. Concordance of the TNF-α trait (high versus low) in SLE patients and their spouses was strikingly high at 78.2%. These data support a role for TNF-α in SLE pathogenesis, and TNF-α levels may relate with heritable factors. The high degree of concordance in SLE patients and their spouses suggests that environmental factors may also play a role in the observed familial aggregation.
doi:10.1155/2013/267430
PMCID: PMC3800640  PMID: 24187561
14.  Large Scale Analysis of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Levels in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(9):2947-2952.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1002/art.34483
PMCID: PMC3396783  PMID: 22488302
systemic lupus erythematosus; tumor necrosis factor alpha; autoantibodies, ancestry
15.  Anti-peptidoglycan antibodies and Fcγ receptors are the key mediators of inflammation in Gram-positive sepsis1 
Gram-positive bacteria are an important public health problem, but it is unclear how they cause systemic inflammation in sepsis. Our previous work showed that peptidoglycan (PGN) induced proinflammatory cytokines in human cells by binding to an unknown extracellular receptor followed by phagocytosis leading to the generation of NOD ligands. Here, we used flow cytometry to identify host factors that supported PGN binding to immune cells. PGN binding required plasma and plasma from all tested healthy donors contained IgG recognizing PGN. Plasma depleted of IgG or of anti-PGN antibodies did not support PGN binding or PGN-triggered cytokine production. Adding back intact but not F(ab’)2 IgG restored binding and cytokine production. Transfection of HEK293 cells with FcγRIIA enabled PGN binding and phagocytosis. These data establish a key role for anti-PGN IgG and FcγRs in supporting inflammation to a major structural element of Gram-positive bacteria and suggest anti-PGN IgG contributes to human pathology in Gram-positive sepsis.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1201302
PMCID: PMC3424298  PMID: 22815288
Peptidoglycan; Fcγ receptor; phagocytosis; nucleotide oligomerization domain; inflammation
16.  Evidence of Dynamically Dysregulated Gene Expression Pathways in Hyperresponsive B Cells from African American Lupus Patients 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71397.
Recent application of gene expression profiling to the immune system has shown a great potential for characterization of complex regulatory processes. It is becoming increasingly important to characterize functional systems through multigene interactions to provide valuable insights into differences between healthy controls and autoimmune patients. Here we apply an original systematic approach to the analysis of changes in regulatory gene interconnections between in Epstein-Barr virus transformed hyperresponsive B cells from SLE patients and normal control B cells. Both traditional analysis of differential gene expression and analysis of the dynamics of gene expression variations were performed in combination to establish model networks of functional gene expression. This Pathway Dysregulation Analysis identified known transcription factors and transcriptional regulators activated uniquely in stimulated B cells from SLE patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071397
PMCID: PMC3744560  PMID: 23977035
17.  Variable association of reactive intermediate genes with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in populations with different African ancestry 
The Journal of rheumatology  2013;40(6):842-849.
Objective
Little is known about the genetic etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in individuals of African ancestry, despite its higher prevalence and greater disease severity. Overproduction of nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species are implicated in the pathogenesis and severity of SLE, making NO synthases and other reactive intermediate related genes biological candidates for disease susceptibility. This study analyzed variation in reactive intermediate genes for association with SLE in two populations with African ancestry.
Methods
A total of 244 SNPs from 53 regions were analyzed in non-Gullah African Americans (AA; 1432 cases and 1687 controls) and the genetically more homogeneous Gullah of the Sea Islands of South Carolina (133 cases and 112 controls) and. Single-marker, haplotype, and two-locus interaction tests were computed for these populations.
Results
The glutathione reductase gene GSR (rs2253409, P=0.0014, OR [95% CI]=1.26 [1.09–1.44]) was the most significant single-SNP association in AA. In the Gullah, the NADH dehydrogenase NDUFS4 (rs381575, P=0.0065, OR [95%CI]=2.10 [1.23–3.59]) and nitric oxide synthase gene NOS1 (rs561712, P=0.0072, OR [95%CI]=0.62 [0.44–0.88]) were most strongly associated with SLE. When both populations were analyzed together, GSR remained the most significant effect (rs2253409, P=0.00072, OR [95%CI]=1.26 [1.10–1.44]). Haplotype and two-locus interaction analyses also uncovered different loci in each population.
Conclusion
These results suggest distinct patterns of association with SLE in African-derived populations; specific loci may be more strongly associated within select population groups.
doi:10.3899/jrheum.120989
PMCID: PMC3735344  PMID: 23637325
systemic lupus erythematosus; African Americans; genetic association studies; oxygen compounds; single nucleotide polymorphism
18.  Clostridium difficile 027/BI/NAP1 Encodes a Hypertoxic and Antigenically Variable Form of TcdB 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003523.
The Clostridium difficile exotoxin, TcdB, which is a major virulence factor, varies between strains of this pathogen. Herein, we show that TcdB from the epidemic BI/NAP1/027 strain of C. difficile is more lethal, causes more extensive brain hemorrhage, and is antigenically variable from TcdB produced by previously studied strains of this pathogen (TcdB003). In mouse intoxication assays, TcdB from a ribotype 027 strain (TcdB027) was at least four fold more lethal than TcdB003. TcdB027 caused a previously undescribed brain hemorrhage in mice and this correlated with a heightened sensitivity of brain microvascular endothelial cells to the toxin. TcdB003 and TcdB027 also differed in their antigenic profiles and did not share cross-neutralizing epitopes in a major immunogenic region of the protein. Solid phase humoral mapping of epitopes in the carboxy-terminal domains (CTD) of TcdB027 and TcdB003 identified 11 reactive epitopes that varied between the two forms of TcdB, and 13 epitopes that were shared or overlapping. Despite the epitope differences and absence of neutralizing epitopes in the CTD of TcdB027, a toxoid form of this toxin primed a strong protective response. These findings indicate TcdB027 is a more potent toxin than TcdB003 as measured by lethality assays and pathology, moreover the sequence differences between the two forms of TcdB alter antigenic epitopes and reduce cross-neutralization by antibodies targeting the CTD.
Author Summary
During the past decade, the C. difficile BI/NAP1/027 strain has emerged and in some settings predominated as the cause of C. difficile infection. Moreover, in some reports C. difficile BI/NAP1/027 has been associated with more severe disease. The reasons for association of this strain with more severe disease and relapse are poorly understood. We compared the toxicity and antigenic profiles of the major C. difficile virulence factor, TcdB, from a previously studied reference strain and a BI/NAP1/027 strain. The results indicate TcdB027, the toxin from the BI/NAP1/027 strain, is more lethal and causes more extensive brain hemorrhaging than TcdB003, the toxin produced by a reference strain of C. difficile. Furthermore, the results show that the antigenic carboxy-terminal domain (CTD) encodes at least 11 epitopes that differ between the two forms of TcdB. In line with this, experiments demonstrate that antiserum against the CTD does not cross-neutralize TcdB003 and TcdB027 toxicity against CHO cells, and TcdB027 appears to be devoid of neutralizing epitopes in this domain. These findings indicate differences in TcdB003 and TcdB027 contribute to increased virulence of C. difficile BI/NAP1/027 and reduce the likelihood of acquired immunity providing cross-protection against infection by these strains.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003523
PMCID: PMC3731247  PMID: 23935501
19.  Trans-Ancestral Studies Fine Map the SLE-Susceptibility Locus TNFSF4 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(7):e1003554.
We previously established an 80 kb haplotype upstream of TNFSF4 as a susceptibility locus in the autoimmune disease SLE. SLE-associated alleles at this locus are associated with inflammatory disorders, including atherosclerosis and ischaemic stroke. In Europeans, the TNFSF4 causal variants have remained elusive due to strong linkage disequilibrium exhibited by alleles spanning the region. Using a trans-ancestral approach to fine-map the locus, utilising 17,900 SLE and control subjects including Amerindian/Hispanics (1348 cases, 717 controls), African-Americans (AA) (1529, 2048) and better powered cohorts of Europeans and East Asians, we find strong association of risk alleles in all ethnicities; the AA association replicates in African-American Gullah (152,122). The best evidence of association comes from two adjacent markers: rs2205960-T (P = 1.71×10−34, OR = 1.43[1.26–1.60]) and rs1234317-T (P = 1.16×10−28, OR = 1.38[1.24–1.54]). Inference of fine-scale recombination rates for all populations tested finds the 80 kb risk and non-risk haplotypes in all except African-Americans. In this population the decay of recombination equates to an 11 kb risk haplotype, anchored in the 5′ region proximal to TNFSF4 and tagged by rs2205960-T after 1000 Genomes phase 1 (v3) imputation. Conditional regression analyses delineate the 5′ risk signal to rs2205960-T and the independent non-risk signal to rs1234314-C. Our case-only and SLE-control cohorts demonstrate robust association of rs2205960-T with autoantibody production. The rs2205960-T is predicted to form part of a decameric motif which binds NF-κBp65 with increased affinity compared to rs2205960-G. ChIP-seq data also indicate NF-κB interaction with the DNA sequence at this position in LCL cells. Our research suggests association of rs2205960-T with SLE across multiple groups and an independent non-risk signal at rs1234314-C. rs2205960-T is associated with autoantibody production and lymphopenia. Our data confirm a global signal at TNFSF4 and a role for the expressed product at multiple stages of lymphocyte dysregulation during SLE pathogenesis. We confirm the validity of trans-ancestral mapping in a complex trait.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) is a complex disease in which the body's immune cells cause inflammation in one or more systems to cause the associated morbidity. Hormones, the environment and genes are all causal contributors to SLE and over the past several years the genetic component of SLE has been firmly established. Several genes which are regulators of the immune system are associated with disease risk. We have established one of these, the tumour-necrosis family superfamily member 4 (TNFSF4) gene, as a lupus susceptibility gene in Northern Europeans. A major obstacle in pinpointing the marker(s) at TNFSF4 which best explain the risk of SLE has been the strong correlation (linkage disequilibrium, LD) between adjacent markers across the TNFSF4 region in this population. To address this, we have typed polymorphisms in several populations in addition to the European groups. The mixed ancestry of these populations gives a different LD pattern than that found in Europeans, presenting a method of pinpointing the section of the TNFSF4 region which results in SLE susceptibility. The Non-European populations have allowed identification of a polymorphism likely to regulate expression of TNFSF4 to increase susceptibility to SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003554
PMCID: PMC3715547  PMID: 23874208
20.  Genome-wide association scan in women with systemic lupus erythematosus identifies susceptibility variants in ITGAM, PXK, KIAA1542 and other loci 
Nature genetics  2008;40(2):204-210.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a common systemic autoimmune disease with complex etiology but strong clustering in families (λS = ~30). We performed a genome-wide association scan using 317,501 SNPs in 720 women of European ancestry with SLE and in 2,337 controls, and we genotyped consistently associated SNPs in two additional independent sample sets totaling 1,846 affected women and 1,825 controls. Aside from the expected strong association between SLE and the HLA region on chromosome 6p21 and the previously confirmed non-HLA locus IRF5 on chromosome 7q32, we found evidence of association with replication (1.1 × 10−7 < Poverall < 1.6 × 10−23; odds ratio 0.82–1.62)in four regions: 16p11.2 (ITGAM), 11p15.5 (KIAA1542), 3p14.3 (PXK) and 1q25.1 (rs10798269). We also found evidence for association (P < 1 × 10−5) at FCGR2A, PTPN22 and STAT4, regions previously associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, as well as at ≥9 other loci (P < 2 × 10−7). Our results show that numerous genes, some with known immune-related functions, predispose to SLE.
doi:10.1038/ng.81
PMCID: PMC3712260  PMID: 18204446
21.  Lupus and Epstein-Barr 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2012;24(4):383-388.
Purpose of review
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous human disease influenced by a complex interplay of necessary, but not individually sufficient, factors. Although many genetic and environmental factors are associated with SLE, this review will focus on the evolving evidence for key Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-specific roles in SLE, focusing on new experimental studies published during 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Recent findings
SLE patients have a dysregulated immune response against EBV. EBV antigens exhibit structural molecular mimicry with common SLE antigens and functional molecular mimicry with critical immune-regulatory components. SLE patients, from a number of unique geographic regions, are shown to have higher rates of EBV seroconversion, especially against early EBV antigens, suggesting frequent viral reactivation. SLE patients also have increased EBV viral loads and impaired EBV-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, with impaired cytokine responses to EBV in lupus patients. Irregular cytokine production in plasmacytoid dendritic cells and CD69+ CD4+ T cells after stimulation with EBV has also been demonstrated.
Summary
Recent advances demonstrate SLE-specific serologic responses, gene expression, viral load, T-cell responses, humoral fine specificity, and molecular mimicry with EBV, further supporting potential roles for EBV in lupus etiology and pathogenesis.
doi:10.1097/BOR.0b013e3283535801
PMCID: PMC3562348  PMID: 22504579
environmental factors; Epstein-Barr virus; etiology; systemic lupus erythematosus
22.  Human Monoclonal Antibodies Generated Following Vaccination with AVA Provide Neutralization by Blocking Furin Cleavage but not by Preventing Oligomerization 
Vaccine  2012;30(28):4276-4283.
In order to identify the combination of antibody-mediated mechanisms of neutralization that result from vaccination with anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA), we isolated antibody secreting cells from a single donor seven days after booster vaccination with AVA and generated nine fully human monoclonal antibodies (hmAb) with high specificity for protective antigen (PA). Two of the antibodies were able to neutralize lethal toxin in vitro at low concentrations (IC50: p6C01, 0.12 µg/ml and p6F01, 0.45 µg/ml). Passive transfer of either of these hmAbs to A/J mice prior to challenge with lethal toxin conferred 80–90% protection. We demonstrate that hmAb p6C01 is neutralizing by preventing furin cleavage of PA in a dose-dependent manner, but the mechanism of p6F01 is unclear. Three additional antibodies were found to bind to domain 3 of PA and prevent oligomerization, although they did not confer significant protection in vivo and showed a significant prozone-like effect in vitro. These fully human antibodies provide insight into the neutralizing response to AVA for future subunit vaccine and passive immunotherapeutic cocktail design.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.03.002
PMCID: PMC3367042  PMID: 22425791
anthrax; Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed; human monoclonal antibodies; passive immunotherapeutics; protective antigen
23.  Antibody response to common viruses and human leukocyte antigen-DRB1 in pediatric multiple sclerosis 
Background
As remote infections with common herpes viruses are associated with modulation of the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), we hypothesized that antibody concentrations against these viruses may further modify risk. As many common viruses are first encountered during childhood, pediatric MS offer a unique opportunity to investigate more closely their influence on susceptibility. Our aim was to determine if MS patients who were positive for these viruses had higher levels of antibodies to these viruses. We also assessed whether human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1*1501 genotype influenced viral antibody levels.
Methods
Antibody response levels toward Epstein Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1, and HLA-DRB1*1501 status were determined in pediatric MS patients (n=189) and controls (n=38). Multivariate analyses were used, adjusted for age, gender, race, ethnicity and use of disease-modifying therapies.
Results
The antibody concentrations against EBV (Epstein-Barr nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1), viral capsid antigen (VCA) and early antigen (EA)), CMV and HSV-1 were similar between pediatric MS patients and controls positive for seroconversion against the virus of interest. EBNA-1 humoral responses were higher in HLA-DRB1 positive individuals (p=0.005) whereas other viral humoral responses were similar in HLA-DRB1 positive and negative individuals.
Conclusion
Among those positive for EBNA-1, MS patients did not have higher levels of antibody response to EBNA-1: however, titers for EBNA-1 were higher in those who were HLA-DRB1 positive. This suggests that genotype might influence the humoral response to EBV. Whether other genotypes influence antibody response to other viruses remains to be determined.
doi:10.1177/1352458512469693
PMCID: PMC3665694  PMID: 23232601
Multiple sclerosis susceptibility; Epstein Barr virus; cytomegalovirus; herpes simplex virus-1; DRB1; pediatric multiple sclerosis; risk factors; gene-environment interaction
24.  Analysis of autosomal genes reveals gene–sex interactions and higher total genetic risk in men with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(5):694-699.
Objectives
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a sexually dimorphic autoimmune disease which is more common in women, but affected men often experience a more severe disease. The genetic basis of sexual dimorphism in SLE is not clearly defined. A study was undertaken to examine sex-specific genetic effects among SLE susceptibility loci.
Methods
A total of 18 autosomal genetic susceptibility loci for SLE were genotyped in a large set of patients with SLE and controls of European descent, consisting of 5932 female and 1495 male samples. Sex-specific genetic association analyses were performed. The sex–gene interaction was further validated using parametric and nonparametric methods. Aggregate differences in sex-specific genetic risk were examined by calculating a cumulative genetic risk score for SLE in each individual and comparing the average genetic risk between male and female patients.
Results
A significantly higher cumulative genetic risk for SLE was observed in men than in women. (P = 4.52×10−8) A significant sex–gene interaction was seen primarily in the human leucocyte antigen (HLA) region but also in IRF5, whereby men with SLE possess a significantly higher frequency of risk alleles than women. The genetic effect observed in KIAA1542 is specific to women with SLE and does not seem to have a role in men.
Conclusions
The data indicate that men require a higher cumulative genetic load than women to develop SLE. These observations suggest that sex bias in autoimmunity could be influenced by autosomal genetic susceptibility loci.
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200385
PMCID: PMC3324666  PMID: 22110124
25.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200463
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620

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