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1.  Modulation by Melatonin of the Pathogenesis of Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases 
Melatonin is the major secretory product of the pineal gland during the night and has multiple activities including the regulation of circadian and seasonal rhythms, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It also possesses the ability to modulate immune responses by regulation of the T helper 1/2 balance and cytokine production. Autoimmune diseases, which result from the activation of immune cells by autoantigens released from normal tissues, affect around 5% of the population. Activation of autoantigen-specific immune cells leads to subsequent damage of target tissues by these activated cells. Melatonin therapy has been investigated in several animal models of autoimmune disease, where it has a beneficial effect in a number of models excepting rheumatoid arthritis, and has been evaluated in clinical autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis. This review summarizes and highlights the role and the modulatory effects of melatonin in several inflammatory autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
PMCID: PMC3709754  PMID: 23727938
melatonin; autoimmune disease; multiple sclerosis; systemic lupus erythematosus; rheumatoid arthritis; type 1 diabetes mellitus; inflammatory bowel disease
2.  Modulatory Function of Invariant Natural Killer T Cells in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease with complex immunological and clinical manifestations. Multiple organ failure in SLE can be caused by immune dysfunction and deposition of autoantibodies. Studies of SLE-susceptible loci and the cellular and humoral immune responses reveal variable aberrations associated with this systemic disease. Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are a unique subset of lymphocytes that control peripheral tolerance. Mounting evidence showing reductions in the proportion and activity of iNKT cells in SLE patients suggests the suppressive role of iNKT cells. Studies using murine lupus models demonstrate that iNKT cells participate in SLE progression by sensing apoptotic cells, regulating immunoglobulin production, and altering the cytokine profile upon activation. However, the dichotomy of iNKT cell actions in murine models implies complicated interactions within the body's milieu. Therefore, application of potential therapy for SLE using glycolipids to regulate iNKT cells should be undertaken cautiously.
PMCID: PMC3385970  PMID: 22761630
3.  Significantly Higher Percentage of Circulating CD27high Plasma Cells in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients with Infection than with Disease Flare-Up 
Yonsei Medical Journal  2010;51(6):924-931.
To distinguish lupus flare-up from infection in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), we analyze the expression of circulating CD27high plasma cells in SLE patients with and without infection, in comparison to non-SLE patients with infection.
Materials and Methods
The percentage of circulating CD27high plasma cells was measured by flow cytometry in the following four groups: 36 SLE patients without infection, 23 SLE patients with infection, eight non-SLE patients with infection, and 26 healthy controls.
The frequency of CD27high plasma cells had a correlation with the SLE disease activity index (SLEDAI) (r = 0.866, p < 0.05), level of anti-dsDNA (r = 0.886, p < 0.05), C3 (r = - 0.392, p < 0.05), and C4 (r = - 0.337, p < 0.05) in SLE patients without infection, but there was no correlation with disease activity in SLE patients with infection. Among three groups in particular-SLE without infection, SLE with infection, and non-SLE with infection-the percentages of CD27high plasma cells were elevated. The percentage of CD27high plasma cells was higher in SLE patients with infection, when compared to SLE patients without infection.
The percentage of CD27high plasma cells is a biomarker for disease activity of SLE without infection, under correlation with SLEDAI, anti-dsDNA, and C3 and C4 level. However, when the SLE patients have an infection, the percentage of CD27high plasma cells is not an adequate biomarker for the survey of disease activity. The percentage of CD27high plasma cells may serve as a potential parameter to distinguish a lupus flare-up from infection.
PMCID: PMC2995985  PMID: 20879061
Systemic lupus erythematosus; infection; CD27
4.  Chondroprotective effects and mechanisms of resveratrol in advanced glycation end products-stimulated chondrocytes 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(5):R167.
Accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in joints contributes to the pathogenesis of cartilage damage in osteoarthritis (OA). We aim to explore the potential chondroprotective effects of resveratrol on AGEs-stimulated porcine chondrocytes and cartilage explants.
Chondrocytes were isolated from pig joints. Activation of the IκB kinase (IKK)-IκBα-nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-activator protein-1 (AP-1) pathways was assessed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), Western blot and transfection assay. The levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)-NO and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)-prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) were measured by Western blot, Griess reaction or ELISA. The expression and enzyme activity of matrix metalloproteinase-13 (MMP-13) were determined by real time RT/PCR and gelatin zymography, respectively.
We show that AGEs-induced expression of iNOS and COX-2 and production of NO and PGE2 were suppressed by resveratrol. Such effects of resveratrol were likely mediated through inhibiting IKK-IκBα-NF-κB and JNK/ERK-AP-1 signaling pathways induced by AGEs. By targeting these critical signaling pathways, resveratrol decreased AGEs-stimulated expression and activity of MMP-13 and prevented AGEs-mediated destruction of collagen II. Histochemistry analysis further confirms that resveratrol could prevent AGEs-induced degradation of proteoglycan and aggrecan in cartilage explants.
The present study reveals not only the effects and mechanisms regarding how resveratrol may protect cartilage from AGEs-mediated damage but also the potential therapeutic benefit of resveratrol in the treatment of OA.
PMCID: PMC2990994  PMID: 20825639
5.  Protective Role of Programmed Death 1 Ligand 1 (PD-L1)in Nonobese Diabetic Mice  
Diabetes  2008;57(7):1861-1869.
OBJECTIVE—Coinhibitory signals mediated via programmed death 1 (PD-1) receptor play a critical role in downregulating immune responses and in maintaining peripheral tolerance. Programmed death 1 ligand 1 (PD-L1), the interacting ligand for PD-1, widely expressed in many cell types, acts as a tissue-specific negative regulator of pathogenic T-cell responses. We investigated the protective potential of PD-L1 on autoimmune diabetes by transgenically overexpressing PD-L1 in pancreatic β-cells in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—We established an insulin promoter–driven murine PD-L1 transgenic NOD mouse model to directly evaluate the protective effect of an organ-specific PD-L1 transgene against autoimmune diabetes. Transgene expression, insulitis, and diabetic incidence were characterized in these transgenic NOD mice. Lymphocyte development, Th1 cells, and regulatory T-cells were analyzed in these transgenic mice; and T-cell proliferation, adoptive transfer, and islet transplantation were performed to evaluate the PD-L1 transgene–mediated immune-protective mechanisms.
RESULTS—The severity of insulitis in these transgenic mice is significantly decreased, disease onset is delayed, and the incidence of diabetes is markedly decreased compared with littermate controls. NOD/SCID mice that received lymphocytes from transgenic mice became diabetic at a slower rate than mice receiving control lymphocytes. Moreover, lymphocytes collected from recipients transferred by lymphocytes from transgenic mice revealed less proliferative potential than lymphocytes obtained from control recipients. Transgenic islets transplanted in diabetic recipients survived moderately longer than control islets.
CONCLUSIONS—Our results demonstrate the protective potential of transgenic PD-L1 in autoimmune diabetes and illustrate its role in downregulating diabetogenic T-cells in NOD mice.
PMCID: PMC2453619  PMID: 18420489
6.  IL-1β in Irrigation Fluid and MRNA Expression in Synovial Tissue of the Knee Joint as Therapeutic Markers of Inflammation in Collagen Antibody-Induced Arthritis 
Disease markers  2009;26(1):1-7.
Objective: We studied the relationship between the severity of inflammation and IL-1β production and relative expression level of IL-1β mRNA in irrigation fluid and synovial tissue obtained from the knee joint during the acute stage of a murine model of type II collagen antibody-induced arthritis (CAIA). This model is used to identify potential therapeutic markers for treating rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: Irrigation fluid and synovium tissue were harvested from the knee joint of BALB/c mice in acute stage of CAIA induction. The IL-1β protein level was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the relative expression level of IL-1β mRNA was analyzed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Two investigators analyzed expression levels and histopathological changes.
Results: IL-1β concentration was higher in irrigation fluid from the knee joint than in the serum in the acute stage of CAIA. The relative expression level of IL-1β mRNA was elevated in synovial tissue. Histopathological changes in the knee joint and foot indicated similar severity.
Conclusions: IL-1β concentration in irrigation fluid and relative expression level of IL-1β mRNA in the synovium have potential as therapeutic markers in studying and treating CAIA.
PMCID: PMC3833234  PMID: 19242063
7.  Mesangial cells of lupus-prone mice are sensitive to chemokine production 
Infectious antigens may be triggers for the exacerbation of systemic lupus erythematosus. The underlying mechanism causing acceleration and exacerbation of lupus nephritis (LN) is largely unknown. Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is capable of inducing an accelerated model of LN in NZB/W mice, featuring diffuse proliferation of glomerular resident cells. We hypothesized that mesangial cells (MCs) from LN subjects are more responsive to LPS than normal subjects. Cultured primary NZB/W and DBA/W (nonautoimmune disease-prone strain with MHC class II molecules identical to those of NZB/W) MCs were used. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and osteopontin (OPN) expressions either in the baseline (normal culture) condition or in the presence of LPS were evaluated by real-time PCR, ELISA, or western blot analysis. NF-κB was detected by ELISA, electrophoresis mobility-shift assay, and immunofluorescence. First, either in the baseline condition or in the presence of LPS, NZB/W MCs produced significantly higher levels of MCP-1 and OPN than the DBA/W MC controls. Second, NZB/W MCs expressed significantly higher levels of Toll-like receptor 4, myeloid differentiation factor 88, and NF-κB than the DBA/W MC controls, both receiving exactly the same LPS treatment. In conclusion, NZB/W MCs are significantly more sensitive than their normal control DBA/W MCs in producing both MCP-1 and OPN. With LPS treatment, the significantly elevated levels of both chemokines produced by NZB/W MCs are more likely due to a significantly greater activation of the Toll-like receptor 4-myeloid differentiation factor 88-associated NF-κB pathway. The observed abnormal molecular events provide an intrarenal pathogenic pathway involved in an accelerated type of LN, which is potentially infection triggered.
PMCID: PMC2206365  PMID: 17617918
8.  SNPs in VKORC1 are Risk Factors for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Asians 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2013;65(1):211-215.
The increased risk of thrombosis in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) may be partially explained by interrelated genetic pathways for thrombosis and SLE. In a case-control analysis, we investigated whether 33 established and novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in 20 genes involved in hemostasis pathways that have been associated with deep venous thrombosis in the general population were risk factors for SLE development among Asians.
Patients in the discovery cohort were enrolled in one of two North American SLE cohorts. Patients in the replication cohort were enrolled in one of four Asian or two North American cohorts. SLE cases met American College of Rheumatology classification criteria. We first genotyped 263 Asian SLE and 357 healthy Asian control individuals for 33 SNPs using Luminex multiplex technology in the discovery phase, and then used Taqman and Immunochip assays to examine 5 SNPs in up to an additional 1496 cases and 993 controls in the Replication phase. SLE patients were compared to healthy controls for association with minor alleles in allelic models. Principal components analysis was used to control for intra-Asian ancestry in an analysis of the replication cohort.
Two genetic variants in the gene VKORC1, rs9934438 and rs9923231, were highly significant in both the discovery and replication cohorts: OR(disc) = 2.45 (p=2×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6) and OR(disc) = 2.40 (p=6×10−9), OR(rep) = 1.53 (p=5×10−6), respectively. These associations were significant in the replication cohort after adjustment for intra-Asian ancestry: rs9934438 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0029) and rs9923231 OR(adj) = 1.34 (p=0.0032).
Genetic variants in VKORC1, involved in vitamin K reduction and associated with DVT, are associated with SLE development in Asians. These results suggest intersecting genetic pathways for the development of SLE and thrombosis.
PMCID: PMC3670944  PMID: 23124848
systemic lupus erythematosus; single nucleotide polymorphisms; genetic risk factors
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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

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