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1.  Peripheral CD4CD8 Double Positive T Cells with a Distinct Helper Cytokine Profile Are Increased in Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93293.
Peripheral CD4CD8 double positive (DP) T cells have been reported to play a role in several autoimmune diseases, virus infections and cancer. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), both CD4 and CD8 single positive (SP) T cells are known to be involved in the pathogenesis, but the role of peripheral CD4CD8 DP T cells has not been investigated in detail. Anti cyclic citrullinated antibodies (ACPA) positive and ACPA negative RA patients, patients with systemic lupus erythematodes (SLE) and age matched healthy donors (HD) were enrolled in the analysis. The frequencies and phenotype of DP T cells in PBMC were investigated. In addition, DP T cells were quantified in biopsies from rheumatoid synovium. After in vitro restimulation, the cytokine production of DP T cells was investigated in cultures of PBMC. CMV specific cytokine secretion as well as proliferation was analyzed following antigen specific restimulation after an appropriate culture duration. DP T cells were found more frequently in RA patients than in healthy controls or patients with SLE. These DP T cells express αβ TCRs, are of a memory phenotype and share features of both CD4 as well as CD8 SP T cells. Importantly, DP T cells were found to also be present in the rheumatoid synovium. Further characterization of DP T cells from RA patients revealed increased production of IL-21 and IL-4, implying a possible role as T helper cells. In addition, DP T cells in RA seem to contribute to the inflammatory process, because they produce significantly more IFNγ than counterparts from HD and are increased in CMV+ RA patients. Given their capacity to produce a variety of cytokines (IL4, IL21 and IFNγ), their association with ACPA positive RA and their presence in the synovium, we suggest an important role of double positive T cells in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC3965555  PMID: 24667579
2.  Deficient spontaneous in vitro apoptosis and increased tmTNF reverse signaling-induced apoptosis of monocytes predict suboptimal therapeutic response of rheumatoid arthritis to TNF inhibition 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(6):R219.
In vitro apoptosis of peripheral monocytes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is disturbed and influenced by cytokine production and transmembrane TNF (tmTNF) reverse signaling. The goal of the study was the analysis of the predictive value of the rate of in vitro apoptosis for the therapeutic response to anti-TNF treatment.
Spontaneous and tmTNF reverse signaling-induced apoptosis were determined in vitro in monocytes from 20 RA patients prior to initiation of therapeutic TNF inhibition with etanercept, and the subsequent clinical response was monitored.
Spontaneous in vitro apoptosis was significantly reduced in RA patients compared to controls. Deficiency in spontaneous apoptosis was associated with an insufficient therapeutic response according to the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) response criteria and less reduction of the disease activity determined by disease activity score (DAS) 28. High susceptibility to reverse signaling-induced apoptosis was also associated with less efficient reduction in the DAS28. Of note, a strong negative correlation between the two apoptotic parameters was discernible, possibly indicative of two pathogenetically relevant processes counter-regulating each other.
tmTNF reverse signaling induced in vitro production of soluble IL1-RI and IL-1RII only in monocytes not deficient in spontaneous apoptosis, and the levels of soluble IL1-RII were found to be predictive of a good clinical response to Etanercept.
Although tmTNF reverse signaling is able to induce apoptosis of RA monocytes in vitro, this process appears to occur in vitro preferentially in patients with suboptimal therapeutic response. Resistance to spontaneous in vitro apoptosis, in contrast, is a predictor of insufficient response to treatment.
PMCID: PMC4029313  PMID: 24354986
3.  CD56+ monocytes have a dysregulated cytokine response to lipopolysaccharide and accumulate in rheumatoid arthritis and immunosenescence 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R139.
Peripheral blood monocytes are no longer regarded as a homogeneous cell population, but can be differentiated both phenotypically and functionally into various subpopulations. In rheumatoid arthritis, the subpopulation of CD14bright/CD16+ monocyte is expanded and prone towards generation of Th17 cells. CD56+ monocytes represent a different subpopulation, which is also expanded in conditions associated with autoimmunity like inflammatory bowel diseases. The aim of the study was the quantification and functional characterization of the CD56+ monocyte subset in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Frequencies of peripheral blood monocyte subpopulations were analyzed by flow cytometry in 86 healthy controls and 75 RA patients. In 16 patients, anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy was initiated, and the CD56+ monocyte frequency was monitored longitudinally. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced cytokine production of CD56+ and CD56– monocytes was determined by intracellular staining or cytokine secretion assays.
In healthy individuals, 8.6% ± 0.6 of the monocytes co-expressed CD56, with the majority of CD56+ monocytes being CD14bright (7.9% ± 0.5), while only a minor population was CD14dim (0.7% ± 0.1). We found a strong positive correlation between an individual’s age and the frequency of CD56+ monocytes. Upon stimulation with LPS, CD56+ monocytes became more frequently positive for TNF, IL-10 and IL-23 than CD56– monocytes. In addition, CD56+ monocytes spontaneously produced more reactive oxygen intermediates than CD56- monocytes. In RA patients, the frequency of CD56+ monocytes was significantly higher than in healthy controls (12.2% ± 0.9 vs. 7.9% ± 0.5, p = 0.0002), and this difference most pronounced in RA patients below 40 years of age (11.1% ± 1.6 vs. 4.1% ± 0.4, P < 0.0001). Treatment of the patients with an anti-TNF blocking agent significantly reduced CD56+ monocyte frequencies (baseline 12.4% vs. 24 weeks treatment 8.0%, P = 0.0429), and the magnitude of this decrease was found to correlate with the change in disease activity under the therapy.
The CD14bright/CD56+ monocyte subset is expanded in aging individuals as well as in patients with RA. The pro-inflammatory production of cytokines and reactive oxygen species as well as the elimination of those cells in patients with a good response towards TNF inhibiting agents indicates a possible contribution of those monocytes in the inflammatory response in RA.
PMCID: PMC3978677  PMID: 24286519
4.  Identification and evaluation of novel synovial tissue biomarkers in rheumatoid arthritis by laser scanning cytometry 
Suitable biomarkers are essential for therapeutic strategies in personalized medicine in terms of diagnosis as well as of prognosis. With highly specific biomarkers, it is possible, for example, to identify patients with poor prognosis, which enables early intervention and intensive treatment. The aim of this study was to identify and validate biomarkers and possible combinations for a prospective use in immunoscintigraphy, which may improve diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with consideration of inflammatory activity in the affected joints. Therefore, we tested several monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed against cellular-surface molecules on cells likely to be involved in the pathogenesis of RA.
Synovial tissue from patients with long-standing RA (accompanied by synovitis with varying states of current activity) and patients with acute non-RA arthritis were stained for surface molecules on different cell types by using fluorochrome-labeled antibodies. Tissue analysis was done by laser scanning cytometry (LSC), and statistical evaluation, by discriminant analysis and ROC analysis.
CD11b, HLA-DR, CD90, and CD64 revealed significant differences between tissues from patients with RA and acute non-RA arthritis. Especially with the expression of CD64, both patient cohorts could be discriminated with high sensitivity and specificity. RA classification was improved by simultaneously investigating the expression of two or three different surface proteins, such as HLA-DR, CD90, and CD29 in the tissue. The simultaneous analysis of CD64 together with CD304 or the combination of CD11b and CD38 was suitable for the identification of RA patients with high current activity in synovitis.
In this study, we showed that LSC is a novel reliable method in biomarker prevalidation in RA. Hence, identified mAbs in situ may allow their potential use in in vivo approaches. Moreover, we proved that biomarker-combination analysis resulted in better discrimination than did single-marker analysis. Combinations of these markers make a novel and reliable panel for the discrimination between RA and acute non-RA arthritis. In addition, further expedient combinations may be novel promising biomarker panels to identify current activity in synovitis in RA.
PMCID: PMC3392796  PMID: 22251373
5.  Toll-Like Receptor 4 Is Involved in Inflammatory and Joint Destructive Pathways in Collagen-Induced Arthritis in DBA1J Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23539.
In rheumatoid arthritis, a significant proportion of cytokine and chemokine synthesis is attributed to innate immune mechanisms. TLR4 is a prominent innate receptor since several endogenous ligands known to activate the innate immune system bind to it and may thereby promote joint inflammation. We generated TLR4 deficient DBA1J mice by backcrossing the TLR4 mutation present in C3H/HeJ strain onto the DBA1J strain and investigated the course of collagen-induced arthritis in TLR4 deficient mice in comparison to wild type littermates. The incidence of collagen- induced arthritis was significantly lower in TLR4 deficient compared to wild type mice (59 percent vs. 100 percent). The severity of arthritis was reduced in the TLR4 deficient mice compared to wild type littermates (mean maximum score 2,54 vs. 6,25). Mice deficient for TLR4 were virtually protected from cartilage destruction, and infiltration of inflammatory cells was reduced compared to wt mice. In parallel to the decreased clinical severity, lower anti-CCP antibody concentrations and lower IL-17 concentrations were found in the TLR4 deficient mice. The study further supports the role of TLR4 in the propagation of joint inflammation and destruction. Moreover, since deficiency in TLR4 led to decreased IL-17 and anti-CCP antibody production, the results indicate a link between TLR4 stimulation and the adaptive autoimmune response. This mechanism might be relevant in human rheumatoid arthritis, possibly in response to activating endogenous ligands in the affected joints.
PMCID: PMC3157404  PMID: 21858160
6.  Negative association of the chemokine receptor CCR5 d32 polymorphism with systemic inflammatory response, extra-articular symptoms and joint erosion in rheumatoid arthritis 
Chemokines and their receptors control immune cell migration during infections as well as in autoimmune responses. A 32 bp deletion in the gene of the chemokine receptor CCR5 confers protection against HIV infection, but has also been reported to decrease susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The influence of this deletion variant on the clinical course of this autoimmune disease was investigated.
Genotyping for CCR5d32 was performed by PCR and subsequent electrophoretic fragment length determination. For the clinical analysis, the following extra-articular manifestations of RA were documented by the rheumatologist following the patient: presence of rheumatoid nodules, major organ vasculitis, pulmonary fibrosis, serositis or a Raynaud's syndrome. All documented CRP levels were analyzed retrospectively, and the last available hand and feet radiographs were analyzed with regards to the presence or absence of erosive disease.
Analysis of the CCR5 polymorphism in 503 RA patients and in 459 age-matched healthy controls revealed a significantly decreased disease susceptibility for carriers of the CCR5d32 deletion (Odds ratio 0.67, P = 0.0437). Within the RA patient cohort, CCR5d32 was significantly less frequent in patients with extra-articular manifestations compared with those with limited, articular disease (13.2% versus 22.8%, P = 0.0374). In addition, the deletion was associated with significantly lower average CRP levels over time (median 8.85 vs. median 14.1, P = 0.0041) and had a protective effect against the development of erosive disease (OR = 0.40, P = 0.0047). Intriguingly, homozygosity for the RA associated DNASE2 -1066 G allele had an additive effect on the disease susceptibility conferred by the wt allele of CCR5 (OR = 2.24, P = 0.0051 for carrier of both RA associated alleles)
The presence of CCR5d32 significantly influenced disease susceptibility to and clinical course of RA in a German study population. The protective effect of this deletion, which has been described to lead to a decreased receptor expression in heterozygous patients, underlines the importance of chemokines in the pathogenesis of RA.
PMCID: PMC2714147  PMID: 19538721
7.  Association of MICA with rheumatoid arthritis independent of known HLA-DRB1 risk alleles in a family-based and a case control study 
The gene MICA encodes the protein major histocompatibility complex class I polypeptide-related sequence A. It is expressed in synovium of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and its implication in autoimmunity is discussed. We analyzed the association of genetic variants of MICA with susceptibility to RA.
Initially, 300 French Caucasian individuals belonging to 100 RA trio families were studied. An additional 100 independent RA trio families and a German Caucasian case-control cohort (90/182 individuals) were available for replication. As MICA is situated in proximity to known risk alleles of the HLA-DRB1 locus, our analysis accounted for linkage disequilibrium either by analyzing the subgroup consisting of parents not carrying HLA-DRB1 risk alleles with transmission disequilibrium test (TDT) or by implementing a regression model including all available data. Analysis included a microsatellite polymorphism (GCT)n and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) rs3763288 and rs1051794.
In contrast to the other investigated polymorphisms, the non-synonymously coding SNP MICA-250 (rs1051794, Lys196Glu) was strongly associated in the first family cohort (TDT: P = 0.014; regression model: odds ratio [OR] 0.46, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.25 to 0.82, P = 0.007). Although the replication family sample showed only a trend, combined family data remained consistent with the hypothesis of MICA-250 association independent from shared epitope (SE) alleles (TDT: P = 0.027; regression model: OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.83, P = 0.003). We also replicated the protective association of MICA-250A within a German Caucasian cohort (OR 0.31, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.7, P = 0.005; regression model: OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.96, P = 0.032). We showed complete linkage disequilibrium of MICA-250 (D' = 1, r2= 1) with the functional MICA variant rs1051792 (D' = 1, r2= 1). As rs1051792 confers differential allelic affinity of MICA to the receptor NKG2D, this provides a possible functional explanation for the observed association.
We present evidence for linkage and association of MICA-250 (rs1051794) with RA independent of known HLA-DRB1 risk alleles, suggesting MICA as an RA susceptibility gene. However, more studies within other populations are necessary to prove the general relevance of this polymorphism for RA.
PMCID: PMC2714103  PMID: 19409079
8.  Failure of catecholamines to shift T-cell cytokine responses toward a Th2 profile in patients with rheumatoid arthritis 
To further understand the role of neuro-immunological interactions in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we studied the influence of sympathetic neurotransmitters on cytokine production of T cells in patients with RA. T cells were isolated from peripheral blood of RA patients or healthy donors (HDs), and stimulated via CD3 and CD28. Co-incubation was carried out with epinephrine or norepinephrine in concentrations ranging from 10-5 M to 10-11 M. Interferon (IFN)-γ, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-4, and IL-10 were determined in the culture supernatant with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In addition, IFN-γ and IL-10 were evaluated with intracellular cytokine staining. Furthermore, basal and agonist-induced cAMP levels and catecholamine-induced apoptosis of T cells were measured. Catecholamines inhibited the synthesis of IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-10 at a concentration of 10-5 M. In addition, IFN-γ release was suppressed by 10-7 M epinephrine. Lower catecholamine concentrations exerted no significant effect. A reduced IL-4 production upon co-incubation with 10-5 M epinephrine was observed in RA patients only. The inhibitory effect of catecholamines on IFN-γ production was lower in RA patients as compared with HDs. In RA patients, a catecholamine-induced shift toward a Th2 (type 2) polarised cytokine profile was abrogated. Evaluation of intracellular cytokines revealed that CD8-positive T cells were accountable for the impaired catecholaminergic control of IFN-γ production. The highly significant negative correlation between age and catecholamine effects in HDs was not found in RA patients. Basal and stimulated cAMP levels in T-cell subsets and catecholamine-induced apoptosis did not differ between RA patients and HDs. RA patients demonstrate an impaired inhibitory effect of catecholamines on IFN-γ production together with a failure to induce a shift of T-cell cytokine responses toward a Th2-like profile. Such an unfavorable situation is a perpetuating factor for inflammation.
PMCID: PMC1779439  PMID: 16889669
9.  Association of PTPN22 1858 single-nucleotide polymorphism with rheumatoid arthritis in a German cohort: higher frequency of the risk allele in male compared to female patients 
The functional single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of the gene PTPN22 is a susceptibility locus for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study presented here describes the association of the PTPN22 1858T allele with RA in a German patient cohort; 390 patients with RA and 349 controls were enrolled in the study. For 123 patients, clinical and radiographic documentation over 6 years was available from the onset of disease. Genotyping of the PTPN22 1858 SNP was performed using an restriction fragment length polymorphism PCR-based genotyping assay. The odds ratio to develop RA was 2.57 for carriers of the PTPN22 1858T allele (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.85–3.58, p < 0.001), and 5.58 for homozygotes (95% CI 1.85–16.79). The PTPN22 1858T allele was significantly associated not only with rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) positive RA, but also with RF and anti-CCP negative disease. The frequency of the PTPN22 1858T allele was increased disproportionately in male patients (53.8% compared to 33.0% in female patients, p < 0.001), and the resulting odds ratio for male carriers was increased to 4.47 (95% CI 2.5–8.0, p < 0.001). Moreover, within the male patient population, the rare allele was significantly associated with the HLA-DRB1 shared epitope (p = 0.01). No significant differences in disease activity or Larsen scores were detected. The results provide further evidence that the PTPN22 1858T allele is associated with RA irrespective of autoantibody production. The increased frequency of the risk allele in male patients and its association with the shared epitope indicate that the genetic contribution to disease pathogenesis might be more prominent in men.
PMCID: PMC1526616  PMID: 16635271
10.  The contact-mediated response of peripheral-blood monocytes to preactivated T cells is suppressed by serum factors in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(6):R1189-R1199.
Stimulation of monocytes/macrophages after cell contact with preactivated T cells has been suggested to contribute to the excessive TNF-α production in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this study, T cell-contact-dependent TNF-α production by peripheral-blood monocytes in vitro was investigated and found to be significantly lower in treated and untreated patients with RA than in healthy controls. This suppression was not due to a general deficiency of monocytes to respond, because responses to lipopolysaccharide were comparable in patients and controls. In agreement with the pivotal role of TNF-α in RA, T cell-dependent induction of TNF-α in synovial macrophages was fivefold to tenfold higher than in peripheral-blood monocytes from either patients or controls. The decreased response of peripheral-blood monocytes from patients with RA was found to be mediated by inhibitory serum factors, because the addition of patient sera to monocytes from healthy controls suppressed TNF-α response in the co-culture assay. Preincubation of monocytes from healthy controls with RA serum was sufficient to suppress the subsequent TNF-α response in T cell co-cultures, indicating that inhibitory factors do indeed bind to monocyte surfaces, which might represent a regulatory counter-action of the immune system to the long-standing and consuming autoimmune process in RA. There are some indications that apolipoprotein A-1 might be part of this regulatory system.
PMCID: PMC1297564  PMID: 16277671
11.  Association of a specific haplotype across the genes MMP1 and MMP3 with radiographic joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2004;6(3):R199-R207.
The genetic background of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is only partly understood, and several genes seem to be involved. The matrix metalloproteinases MMP1 (interstitial collagenase) and MMP3 (stromelysin 1) are thought to be important in destructive joint changes seen in RA. In the present study, functional relevant promoter polymorphisms of MMP1 and MMP3 were genotyped in 308 patients and in 110 controls, to test whether the polymorphisms contribute to the severity of the disease measured by radiographic progression of joint destruction. For comparison, the shared epitope of HLA DR4 and DR1 (SE) was determined by polymerase chain reaction. There was no association of MMP polymorphisms with susceptibility to RA. However, a strong linkage disequilibrium was observed between the 1G/2G (MMP1) and the 5A/6A (MMP3) polymorphisms (P << 10-6; linkage disequilibrium index D' = 0.46). In factorial regression, the degree of radiographic joint destruction correlated significantly with the 1G-5A haplotype (P = 0.0001) and the interaction term 'estimated number of 1G-5A haplotypes × duration of disease' (P = 0.0007). This association was phasic, indicating that possession of the 1G-5A haplotype has a protective effect over a period of about 15 years of RA, but might be associated with a more pronounced radiographic progression later on. Similar results were also found with the 1G allele of MMP1 alone (P = 0.015) and with the interaction term 'estimated number of 1G alleles × duration of disease' (P = 0.014). The correlation of SE with the Ratingen score was comparable (0.044). The regression model of MMP haplotypes explained 35% of the variance of the radiographic score, whereas the SE explained 29%. The 1G-5A haplotype across the closely linked MMP1 and MMP3 gene loci is a newly described genetic factor strongly associated with the progression of joint damage in RA. Our findings suggest that there are haplotypes in a MMP cluster region that modify the joint destruction in RA in a phasic manner.
PMCID: PMC416441  PMID: 15142265
allelic polymorphism; matrix metalloproteinase; radiographic progression; rheumatoid arthritis
12.  CD8 T Cells Are Required for the Formation of Ectopic Germinal Centers in Rheumatoid Synovitis 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2002;195(10):1325-1336.
The assembly of inflammatory lesions in rheumatoid arthritis is highly regulated and typically leads to the formation of lymphoid follicles with germinal center (GC) reactions. We used microdissection of such extranodal follicles to analyze the colonizing T cells. Although the repertoire of follicular T cells was diverse, a subset of T cell receptor (TCR) sequences was detected in multiple independent follicles and not in interfollicular zones, suggesting recognition of a common antigen. Unexpectedly, the majority of shared TCR sequences were from CD8 T cells that were highly enriched in the synovium and present in low numbers in the periphery. To examine their role in extranodal GC reactions, CD8 T cells were depleted in human synovium-SCID mouse chimeras. Depletion of synovial CD8 T cells caused disintegration of the GC-containing follicles. In the absence of CD8 T cells, follicular dendritic cells disappeared, production of lymphotoxin-α1β2 markedly decreased, and immunoglobulin (Ig) secretion ceased. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated that these CD8 T cells accumulated at the edge of the mantle zone. Besides their unique localization, they were characterized by the production of interferon (IFN)-γ, lack of the pore-forming enzyme perforin, and expression of CD40 ligand. Perifollicular IFN-γ+ CD8 T cells were rare in secondary lymphoid tissues but accounted for the majority of IFN-γ+ cells in synovial infiltrates. We propose that CD8+ T cells regulate the structural integrity and functional activity of GCs in ectopic lymphoid follicles.
PMCID: PMC2193749  PMID: 12021312
lymphoid follicle; rheumatoid arthritis; lymphoid neogenesis; pathogenesis; CD40
13.  B lymphocytopenia in rheumatoid arthritis is associated with the DRB1 shared epitope and increased acute phase response 
Arthritis Research  2002;4(4):R1.
The influence of HLA DRB1 alleles on B-cell homeostasis was analyzed in 164 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The percentages of CD19+ B lymphocytes determined in the peripheral circulation of 94 retrospectively recruited RA patients followed a bimodal distribution. Two frequency peaks (B-celllow patients and B-cellhigh patients) were separated by the population median of a B-cell frequency of 8.5% of all lymphocytes. Human leucocyte antigen genotyping revealed that the B-celllow patients were more frequently positive for the RA-associated HLA DRB1 shared epitope (SE) than were B-cellhigh patients. Accordingly, SE-positive patients had lower CD19 percentages in the rank-sum analysis when compared with SE-negative patients, and were markedly B lymphocytopenic when compared with a healthy control group. To confirm the differential frequencies of CD19+ B cells, absolute numbers in peripheral blood were determined prospectively in a cohort of 70 RA patients with recent onset disease. SE-positive patients were found to have lower absolute numbers of circulating CD19+ B cells. B-cell counts below the mean of the study population were associated with higher acute phase response and with increased levels of rheumatoid factor IgA. No correlation between absolute numbers of circulating B cells and radiographic progression of joint destruction was seen. The influence of immunogenetic parameters on B-cell homeostasis in RA reported here has not been described previously. The clinical relevance of B lymphocytopenia in SE-positive RA will be further investigated in longitudinal studies.
PMCID: PMC125293  PMID: 12106500
antibodies; B lymphocytes; major histocompatibility complex; rheumatoid arthritis
15.  Extracellular Ca2+ is a danger signal activating the NLRP3 inflammasome through G protein-coupled calcium sensing receptors 
Nature Communications  2012;3:1329-.
Activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome enables monocytes and macrophages to release high levels of interleukin-1β during inflammatory responses. Concentrations of extracellular calcium can increase at sites of infection, inflammation or cell activation. Here we show that increased extracellular calcium activates the NLRP3 inflammasome via stimulation of G protein-coupled calcium sensing receptors. Activation is mediated by signalling through the calcium-sensing receptor and GPRC6A via the phosphatidyl inositol/Ca2+ pathway. The resulting increase in the intracellular calcium concentration triggers inflammasome assembly and Caspase-1 activation. We identified necrotic cells as one source for excess extracellular calcium triggering this activation. In vivo, increased calcium concentrations can amplify the inflammatory response in the mouse model of carrageenan-induced footpad swelling, and this effect was inhibited in GPRC6A−/− mice. Our results demonstrate that G-protein-coupled receptors can activate the inflammasome, and indicate that increased extracellular calcium has a role as a danger signal and amplifier of inflammation.
Levels of extracellular calcium can increase at sites of infection and inflammation; however, the physiological significance of this has been unclear. This work shows that extracellular calcium acts as a danger signal, triggering the NLRP3 inflammasome via two G protein-coupled receptors.
PMCID: PMC3535422  PMID: 23271661
16.  Brief Report: Deficient Thymic Output in Rheumatoid Arthritis Despite Abundance of Prethymic Progenitors 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2013;65(10):2567-2572.
To determine the frequencies of common lymphoid progenitors (CLPs) and recent thymic emigrants (RTEs) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and healthy control subjects.
Flow cytometry was performed to determine the frequencies of CLPs and RTEs in the peripheral blood of 101 control subjects and 51 patients with RA. Thirteen of these patients were also analyzed longitudinally for 6 months after initiation of treatment with a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor.
A significant correlation between the frequencies of CLPs and RTEs was observed in healthy control subjects. The frequencies of both CLPs and RTEs decreased with age and correlated inversely with absolute lymphocyte numbers in peripheral blood. In patients with RA, the frequencies of RTEs were significantly decreased compared with the frequencies in control subjects. Importantly, the frequencies of CLPs were significantly higher in patients with RA compared with control subjects. Therapeutic TNF blockade further increased the frequency of CLPs, thereby normalizing thymic output, as indicated by an increase in the number of RTEs.
Thymic insufficiency in RA is not attributable to an inadequate supply of progenitor cells to the thymus. Thus, insufficient numbers of RTEs could result from inadequate thymic T cell neogenesis, or alternatively, could be a consequence of high CD4+ T cell turnover, homeostatic proliferation, and subsequent dilution of the RTE population.
PMCID: PMC4033527  PMID: 23818218
17.  New covalent modifications of phosphatidylethanolamine by alkanals: mass spectrometry based structural characterization and biological effects 
Journal of Mass Spectrometry  2014;49(7):557-569.
The pathophysiology of numerous human disorders, such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's disease, is accompanied by increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can oxidatively damage nearly all biomolecules, including lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. In particular, (poly)unsaturated fatty acids within the phospholipid (PL) structure are easily oxidized by ROS to lipid peroxidation products (LPP) carrying reactive carbonyl groups. Carbonylated LPP are characterized by high in vivo toxicity due to their reactivity with nucleophilic substrates (Lys-, Cys-and His-residues in proteins or amino groups of phosphatidylethanolamines [PE]). Adducts of unsaturated LPP with PE amino groups have been reported before, whereas less is known about the reactivity of saturated alkanals – which are significantly increased in vivo under oxidative stress conditions – towards nucleophilic groups of PLs.
Here, we present a study of new alkanal-dipalmitoyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (DPPE) adducts by MS-based approaches, using consecutive fragmentation (MSn) and multiple reaction monitoring techniques. At least eight different DPPE–hexanal adducts were identified, including Schiff base and amide adducts, six of which have not been reported before. The structures of these new compounds were determined by their fragmentation patterns using MSn experiments. The new PE-hexanal adducts contained dimeric and trimeric hexanal conjugates, including cyclic adducts. A new pyridine ring containing adduct of DPPE and hexanal was purified by HPLC, and its biological effects were investigated. Incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and monocytes with modified DPPE did not result in increased production of TNF-α as one selected inflammation marker. However, incorporation of modified DPPE into 1,2-dipalmitoleoyl-sn-phosphatidylethanolamine multilamellar vesicles resulted in a negative shift of the transition temperature, indicating a possible role of alkanal-derived modifications in changes of membrane structure. © 2014 The Authors. Journal of Mass Spectrometry published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
PMCID: PMC4207196  PMID: 25044840
lipid oxidation; MSn; high resolution MS; multiple reaction monitoring; alkanals

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