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1.  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.
PMCID: PMC3622940  PMID: 23428850
MECP2; IRAK1; lupus; epigenetics; polymorphism; DNA methylation; T cells; transgenic mouse
2.  Lupus-like autoantibody development in rabbits and mice after immunization with EBNA-1 fragments 
Journal of autoimmunity  2008;31(4):362-371.
Epstein-Barr virus has been implicated in the etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) through serologic and immunologic studies. A potential mechanism for this influence is through molecular mimicry. The EBV nuclear antigen EBNA-1 contains a region, PPPGRRP, with considerable homology to the initial sequence targeted by antibodies in Sm B’ autoimmunity, PPPGMRPP. This study examined whether immunization of rabbits and mice with peptides containing the PPPGRRP sequence from EBNA-1 constructed on a poly-lysine backbone was able to drive the development of autoantibodies against the Smith antigen (Sm) and the related antigenic complex, the U1 nuclear ribonucleoproteins (nRNP). PPPGRRP immunization, and immunization with an EBNA-1 fragment containing PPPGRRP, led to autoantibodies in both rabbits and mice at high frequency (83% of rabbits and 43% of mice). Five out of six immunized rabbits developed either leucopenia or lymphopenia or both. The fine specificity of antibody binding against the lupus-associated autoantigens Sm B’, nRNP A, and nRNP C after immunization with the EBNA-1-derived peptides was very similar to the early antibody binding patterns against these proteins in human SLE. This similarity, as well as the prevalence of autoimmunity after immunization with these peptides, identifies PPPGRRP as a strong candidate for molecular mimicry in SLE etiology.
PMCID: PMC2852321  PMID: 18849143
autoantibodies; molecular mimicry; systemic lupus erythematosus; Epstein-Barr virus
3.  Fine Specificity Mapping of Autoantigens Targeted by Anti-Centromere Autoantibodies 
Journal of autoimmunity  2007;27(4):272-280.
Autoantibodies to centromeric proteins are commonly found in sera of limited scleroderma and other rheumatic disease patients. To better understand the inciting events and possible pathogenic mechanisms of these autoimmune responses, this study identified the common antigenic targets of CENP-A in scleroderma patient sera. Utilizing samples from 263 anti-centromere immunofluorescence positive patients, 93.5% were found to have anti-CENP-A reactivity and 95.4% had anti-CENP-B reactivity by ELISA. Very few patient samples exclusively targeted CENP-A (2.7%) or CENP-B (4.2%). Select patient sera were tested for reactivity with solid phase overlapping decapeptides of CENP-A. Four distinct epitopes of CENP-A were identified. Epitopes 2 and 3 were confirmed by additional testing of 263 patient sera by ELISA for reactivity with these sequences constructed as multiple antigenic peptides. Inhibition CENP-A Western blots also confirmed the specificity of these humoral peptide immune responses in a subset of patient sera. The first three arginine residues (aa 4-6) of CENP-A appear essential for antibody recognition, as replacing these arginines with glycine residues reduced antibody binding to the expressed CENP-A protein by an average of 93.2% (range 80-100%). In selected patients with serial samples spanning nearly a decade, humoral epitope binding patterns were quite stable and showed no epitope spreading over time. This epitope mapping study identifies key antigenic targets of the anti-centromere response and establishes that the majority of the responses depend on key amino-terminal residues.
PMCID: PMC1906738  PMID: 17210244
anti-centromere autoantibodies; epitope mapping; scleroderma

Results 1-3 (3)