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1.  Antibody quantity versus quality after influenza vaccination 
Vaccine  2009;27(45):6358-6362.
The correlates for protection against influenza infection are incompletely characterized. We have applied an ELISA strategy that distinguishes antibodies against native viral surface antigens (potentially neutralizing) from antibodies directed against internal and denatured viral proteins (not neutralizing) to three groups of vaccinated subjects: (1) participants in a study of repeated annual vaccination (2) elderly subjects and (3) patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus compared to control subjects. Antibody increase after vaccination was inversely related to the level of pre-existing antibodies in all groups; most subjects had significant initial antibody levels and showed little increase in amount of antibody after vaccination, but the avidity of their serum antibodies tended to increase. Antibodies against denatured virus proteins varied with vaccine formulation; vaccines that are more recent have less total protein for the same amount of native hemagglutinin. We propose an index consisting of rank order of antibody level plus antibody avidity, both measured against native virus, plus hemagglutination-inhibition antibody titer, as a useful measure of immunity against influenza.
PMCID: PMC2765411  PMID: 19840673
2.  A polymorphism within interleukin-21 receptor (IL21R) confers risk for systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(8):2402-2407.
Interleukin (IL) 21 is a member of the type I cytokine superfamily that exerts a variety of effects on the immune system including B cell activation, plasma cell differentiation, and immunoglobulin production. The expression of IL21R is reduced in B cells from lupus patients, while IL21 serum levels are increased in both lupus patients and some lupus-murine models. We recently reported that polymorphisms within the IL21 gene are associated with increased susceptibility to lupus. Herein, we examined the genetic association between SNPs within IL21R and lupus.
We genotyped 17 SNPs in the IL21R gene in two large cohorts of lupus patients and ethnically-matched healthy controls. Genotyping was performed with the Illumina BeadStation 500GX instrument using Illumina Infinum II genotyping assays.
We identified and confirmed the association between rs3093301 within the IL21R gene and lupus in two independent European-derived and Hispanic cohorts (meta analysis odds ratio= 1.16, 95% CI= 1.08-1.25, meta analysis p=1.0×10-4).
We identified IL21R as a novel susceptibility gene for lupus.
PMCID: PMC2782592  PMID: 19644854
3.  ITGAM coding variant (rs1143679) influences the risk of renal disease, discoid rash, and immunologic manifestations in lupus patients with European ancestry 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(7):1329-1332.
We hypothesized that the coding variant (R77H), rs1143679, within ITGAM could predict specific clinical manifestations associated with lupus.
To assess genetic association, 2366 lupus cases and 2931 unaffected controls with European ancestry were analyzed. Lupus patients were coded by the presence or absence of individual ACR criteria. Logistic regression and Pearson chi-square tests were used to assess statistical significance.
First, for overall case-control analysis, we detected highly significant (p=2.22×10−21, OR=1.73) association. Second, using case-only analysis we detected significant association with renal criteria (p=0.0003), discoid rash (p=0.02), and immunologic criteria (p=0.04). Third, we compared them with healthy controls, the association became stronger for renal (p=4.69×10−22, OR=2.15), discoid (p=1.77×10−14, OR=2.03), and immunologic (p=3.49×10−22, OR = 1.86) criteria. Risk allele frequency increased from 10.6% (controls) to 17.0% (lupus), 20.4% (renal), 18.1% (immunologic), and 19.5% (discoid).
These results demonstrated a strong association between the risk allele (A) at rs1143679 and renal disease, discoid rash, and immunological manifestations of lupus.
PMCID: PMC2891778  PMID: 19939855
4.  The Major Neutralizing Antibody Responses to Recombinant Anthrax Lethal and Edema Factors Are Directed to Non-Cross-Reactive Epitopes▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2009;77(11):4714-4723.
Anthrax lethal and edema toxins (LeTx and EdTx, respectively) form by binding of lethal factor (LF) or edema factor (EF) to the pore-forming moiety protective antigen (PA). Immunity to LF and EF protects animals from anthrax spore challenge and neutralizes anthrax toxins. The goal of the present study is to identify linear B-cell epitopes of EF and to determine the relative contributions of cross-reactive antibodies of EF and LF to LeTx and EdTx neutralization. A/J mice were immunized with recombinant LF (rLF) or rEF. Pools of LF or EF immune sera were tested for reactivity to rLF or rEF by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, in vitro neutralization of LeTx and EdTx, and binding to solid-phase LF and EF decapeptides. Cross-reactive antibodies were isolated by column absorption of EF-binding antibodies from LF immune sera and by column absorption of LF-binding antibodies from EF immune sera. The resulting fractions were subjected to the same assays. Major cross-reactive epitopes were identified as EF amino acids (aa) 257 to 268 and LF aa 265 to 274. Whole LF and EF immune sera neutralized LeTx and EdTx, respectively. However, LF sera did not neutralize EdTx, nor did EF sera neutralize LeTx. Purified cross-reactive immunoglobulin G also failed to cross-neutralize. Cross-reactive B-cell epitopes in the PA-binding domains of whole rLF and rEF occur and have been identified; however, the major anthrax toxin-neutralizing humoral responses to these antigens are constituted by non-cross-reactive epitopes. This work increases understanding of the immunogenicity of EF and LF and offers perspective for the development of new strategies for vaccination against anthrax.
PMCID: PMC2772542  PMID: 19720758
5.  High density genotyping of STAT4 gene reveals multiple haplotypic associations with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in different racial groups 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1085-1095.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
PMCID: PMC2776081  PMID: 19333953
6.  Variants within MECP2, a key transcriptional regulator, are associated with increased susceptibility to lupus and differential gene expression in lupus patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(4):1076-1084.
Both genetic and epigenetic factors play an important role in the pathogenesis of lupus. Herein, we study methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) polymorphism in a large cohort of lupus patients and controls, and determine functional consequences of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype.
We genotyped 18 SNPs within MECP2, located on chromosome Xq28, in a large cohort of European-derived lupus patients and controls. We studied the functional effects of the lupus-associated MECP2 haplotype by determining gene expression profiles in B cell lines from female lupus patients with and without the lupus-associated MECP2 risk haplotype.
We confirm, replicate, and extend the genetic association between lupus and genetic markers within MECP2 in a large independent cohort of European-derived lupus patients and controls (OR= 1.35, p= 6.65×10−11). MECP2 is a dichotomous transcriptional regulator that either activates or represses gene expression. We identified 128 genes that are differentially expressed in lupus patients with the disease-associated MECP2 haplotype; most (~81%) are upregulated. Genes that were upregulated have significantly more CpG islands in their promoter regions compared to downregulated genes. Gene ontology analysis using the differentially expressed genes revealed significant association with epigenetic regulatory mechanisms suggesting that these genes are targets for MECP2 regulation in B cells. Further, at least 13 of the 104 upregulated genes are interferon-regulated genes. The disease-risk MECP2 haplotype is associated with increased expression of the MECP2 transcriptional co-activator CREB1, and decreased expression of the co-repressor HDAC1.
Polymorphism in the MECP2 locus is associated with lupus and, at least in part, contributes to the interferon signature observed in lupus patients.
PMCID: PMC2734382  PMID: 19333917
7.  Evaluation of imputation-based association in and around the integrin-α-M (ITGAM) gene and replication of robust association between a non-synonymous functional variant within ITGAM and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(6):1171-1180.
We recently identified a novel non-synonymous variant, rs1143679, at exon 3 of the ITGAM gene associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility in European-Americans (EAs) and African-Americans. Using genome-wide association approach, three other studies also independently reported an association between SLE susceptibility and ITGAM or ITGAM-ITGAX region. The primary objectives of this study are to assess whether single or multiple causal variants from the same gene or any nearby gene(s) are involved in SLE susceptibility and to confirm a robust ITGAM association across nine independent data sets (n = 8211). First, we confirmed our previously reported association of rs1143679 (risk allele ‘A’) with SLE in EAs (P = 1.0 × 10−8) and Hispanic-Americans (P = 2.9 × 10−5). Secondly, using a comprehensive imputation-based association test, we found that ITGAM is one of the major non-human leukocyte antigen susceptibility genes for SLE, and the strongest association for EA is the same coding variant rs1143679 (log10Bayes factor=20, P = 6.17 × 10−24). Thirdly, we determined the robustness of rs1143679 association with SLE across three additional case–control samples, including UK (P = 6.2 × 10−8), Colombian (P = 3.6 × 10−7), Mexican (P = 0.002), as well as two independent sets of trios from UK (PTDT = 1.4 × 10−5) and Mexico (PTDT = 0.015). A meta-analysis combing all independent data sets greatly reinforces the association (Pmeta = 7.1 × 10−50, odds ratio = 1.83, 95% confidence interval = 1.69–1.98, n = 10 046). However, this ITGAM association was not observed in the Korean or Japanese samples, in which rs1143679 is monomorphic for the non-risk allele (G). Taken together along with our earlier findings, these results demonstrate that the coding variant, rs1143679, best explains the ITGAM-SLE association, especially in European- and African-derived populations, but not in Asian populations.
PMCID: PMC2649018  PMID: 19129174
8.  Early Targets of nRNP Humoral Autoimmunity in Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2009;60(3):848-859.
The U1 small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (nRNPs) are common targets of autoantibodies in lupus and other autoimmune diseases. However, the etiology and progression of autoimmune responses directed against these antigens are not well understood. Using a unique collection of serial human samples from before and after nRNP antibody development, we investigated early humoral events in the development of anti-nRNP autoimmunity.
Lupus patients with sera available from both before and after nRNP antibody precipitin development were identified from the Oklahoma Clinical Immunology Serum Repository. Antibodies in the serial samples were analyzed by ELISA, Western blotting, solid-phase epitope mapping and competition assays.
The first detected nRNP antibodies targeted 6 common initial epitopes in nRNP A, 2 in nRNP C and 9 in nRNP 70K. The initial epitopes of nRNP A and nRNP C were significantly enriched for proline (p=0.0004, p=0.048) and shared up to 95% sequence homology. The initial nRNP 70K humoral epitopes differed from nRNP A and C. The initial antibodies to nRNP A and nRNP C were cross-reactive with the Sm B′-derived peptide PPPGMRPP. Antibody binding against all three nRNP subunits diversified significantly over time.
nRNP A and nRNP C autoantibodies initially targeted restricted, proline-rich motifs. Antibody binding subsequently spread to other epitopes. The similarity and cross-reactivity between the initial targets of nRNP and Sm autoantibodies identifies a likely commonality in etiology and a focal point for intermolecular epitope spreading.
PMCID: PMC2653589  PMID: 19248110
9.  Aberrant Epstein–Barr viral infection in systemic lupus erythematosus☆ 
Autoimmunity reviews  2009;8(4):337.
Serologic association, cross-reactivity of select EBV-specific antibodies with SLE autoantigens, SLE-like autoimmunity after immunization with EBV peptides, increased EB viral load in SLE patients, and SLE-specific alterations in EBV humoral and cellular immunity implicate Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). To investigate SLE-specific differences in EBV gene expression, levels of eight EBV genes were compared between SLE patients and controls by using both ex vivo-infected and un-manipulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Expression levels of mRNA were significantly greater by Wilcoxen signed rank test in the ex vivo-infected SLE patient-derived cells for 4 of 8 EBV genes, including BLLF1, 3.2-fold (p<0.004); LMP-2, 1.7-fold (p<0.008); EBNA-1, 1.7-fold (p<0.01); and BcRF1, a proposed DNA binding protein, 1.7-fold (p<0.02). The frequency of LMP-1 gene expression was significantly greater by Chi square analysis in the peripheral blood from SLE patients than controls (44% of patients, 10% of controls p<0.05). PBMCs from SLE patients had greater expression of latent genes as well as increased expression of both latent and lytic genes after infection, suggesting that EBV may participate in SLE etiology through several mechanisms. Such altered infection patterns may contribute to the increased levels of EBV and the molecular mimicry seen in sera from SLE patients.
PMCID: PMC2822456  PMID: 19167523
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Epstein–Barr virus; Gene expression; Latency
10.  Evaluation of C1q genomic region in minority racial groups of lupus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):517-524.
Complement cascade plasma proteins have a complex role in the etiopathogenesis of SLE. Hereditary C1q deficiency has been strongly related to SLE; however, there are very few published SLE studies that evaluate the polymorphisms of the genes encoding for C1q (A, B, and C). In this study, we evaluated 17 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across 37 kb of C1QA, B and C in a lupus cohort of peoples of African-American and Hispanic origin. In a case only analysis, significant association at multiple SNPs in the C1QA gene was detected in African-Americans with kidney nephritis (best p=4.91 × 10−6). In addition, C1QA was associated with SLE in African-Americans with a lack of nephritis and accompanying photosensitivity when compared to normal controls (p=6.80 × 10−6). A similar trend was observed in the Hispanic subjects (p=0.003). Quantitative analysis demonstrates that some SNPs in the C1q genes might be correlated with C3 complement levels in an additive model among African-Americans (best p=0.0001). The CIQA gene is associated with subphenotypes of lupus in African-American and Hispanic subjects. Further studies with higher SNP densities in this region and other complement components are necessary to elucidate the complex genetics and phenotypic interactions between complement components and SLE.
PMCID: PMC2769492  PMID: 19440201
11.  Replication of the BANK1 genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus in a European-Derived Population 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):531-538.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease with highly variable clinical presentation. Patients suffer from immunological abnormalities that target T cell, B cell and accessory cell functions. B cells are hyperactive in SLE patients. An adaptor protein expressed in B cells called BANK1 (B-cell scaffold protein with ankyrin repeats) was reported in a previous study to be associated with SLE in a European population. The objective of this study is to assess the BANK1 genotype-phenotype association in an independent replication sample. We genotyped 38 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in BANK1 on 1892 European-derived SLE patients and 2652 European-derived controls. The strongest associations with SLE and BANK1 were at rs17266594 (corrected p-value=1.97 × 10−5, OR=1.22, 95% C.I.(1.12–1.34)) and rs10516487 (corrected p-value=2.59 × 10−5, OR=1.22, 95% C.I.(1.11–1.34)). Our findings suggest that the association is explained by these two SNPs, confirming previous reports that these polymorphisms contribute to the risk of developing lupus. Analysis of patient subsets enriched for hematological, immunological and renal ACR criteria or the levels of autoantibodies, such as anti-RNP A and anti-SmRNP, uncovers additional BANK1 associations. Our results suggest that BANK1 polymorphisms alter immune system development and function to increase the risk for developing lupus.
PMCID: PMC2736873  PMID: 19339986
systemic lupus erythematosus; replication; association; European; BANK1
12.  Complement receptor 2 polymorphisms associated with systemic lupus erythematosus modulate alternative splicing 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):457-469.
Genetic factors influence susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A recent family-based analysis in Caucasian and Chinese populations provided evidence for association of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the complement receptor 2 (CR2/CD21) gene with SLE. Here we confirmed this result in a case-control analysis of an independent European-derived population including 2084 patients with SLE and 2853 healthy controls. A haplotype formed by the minor alleles of three CR2 SNPs (rs1048971, rs17615, rs4308977) showed significant association with decreased risk of SLE (30.4% in cases vs. 32.6% in controls, P = 0.016, OR = 0.90 [0.82-0.98]). Two of these SNPs are in exon 10, directly 5′ of an alternatively spliced exon preferentially expressed in follicular dendritic cells (FDC), and the third is in the alternatively spliced exon. Effects of these SNPs as well as a fourth SNP in exon 11 (rs17616) on alternative splicing were evaluated. We found that the minor alleles of these SNPs decreased splicing efficiency of exon 11 both in vitro and ex vivo. These findings further implicate CR2 in the pathogenesis of SLE and suggest that CR2 variants alter the maintenance of tolerance and autoantibody production in the secondary lymphoid tissues where B cells and FDCs interact.
PMCID: PMC2714407  PMID: 19387458
Alternative splicing; systemic lupus erythematosus; complement receptors; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; B cells; follicular dendritic cells
13.  Meta-analysis and Imputation Identifies a 109 kb Risk Haplotype Spanning TNFAIP3 Associated with Lupus Nephritis and Hematologic Manifestations 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):470-477.
TNFAIP3 encodes the ubiquitin modifying enzyme, A20, a key regulator of inflammatory signaling pathways. We previously reported association between TNFAIP3 variants and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In order to further localize the risk variant(s), we performed a meta-analysis using genetic data available from two Caucasian case/control datasets (1453 total cases, 3381 total controls) and 713 SLE trio families. The best result was found at rs5029939 (P = 1.67 × 10−14, OR = 2.09, 95% CI 1.68–2.60). We then imputed SNPs from the CEU Phase II HapMap using genotypes from 431 SLE cases and 2155 controls. Imputation identified eleven SNPs in addition to three observed SNPs, which together, defined a 109 kb SLE risk segment surrounding TNFAIP3. When evaluating whether the rs5029939 risk allele was associated with SLE clinical manifestations, we observed that heterozygous carriers of the TNFAIP3 risk allele at rs5029939 have a two-fold increased risk of developing renal or hematologic manifestations compared to homozygous non-risk subjects. In summary, our study strengthens the genetic evidence that variants in the region of TNFAIP3 influence risk for SLE, particularly in patients with renal and hematologic manifestations, and narrows the risk effect to a 109 kb DNA segment that spans the TNFAIP3 gene.
PMCID: PMC2714405  PMID: 19387456
systemic lupus erythematosus; TNFAIP3; imputation; meta-analysis

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