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1.  A Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells-Type I Interferon Axis Is Critically Implicated in the Pathogenesis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic autoimmune disease that is characterized by the generation of immune responses to various nuclear components. Impaired clearance of apoptotic cells and loss of tolerance to self-antigens are involved both in the initiation and in the propagation of the disease. Dendritic cells (DCs) are key factors in the balance between autoimmunity and tolerance and play a role linking innate and adaptive immunity. DCs, particularly plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs), are the main source of type I interferon (IFN) cytokines, which contribute to the immunopathogenesis of SLE. There is accumulating evidence that pDCs and type I IFN cytokines take the leading part in the development of SLE. In this review, we discuss recent data regarding the role of pDCs and type I IFN cytokines in the pathogenesis of SLE and the potential for employing therapies targeting against aberrant regulation of the pDC-type I IFN axis for treating SLE.
PMCID: PMC4490545  PMID: 26110387
systemic lupus erythematosus; dendritic cells; type I interferon
2.  Red Ginseng Extract Ameliorates Autoimmune Arthritis via Regulation of STAT3 Pathway, Th17/Treg Balance, and Osteoclastogenesis in Mice and Human 
Mediators of Inflammation  2014;2014:351856.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by chronic joint inflammation. Red ginseng is a steamed and dried Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer, which has been used as alternative medicine for thousands of years. This study was undertaken to investigate the effects of red ginseng extracts (RGE) on autoimmune arthritis in mice and humans and to delineate the underlying mechanism. RGE was orally administered three times a week to mice with arthritis. Oral administration of RGE markedly ameliorated clinical arthritis score and histologically assessed joint inflammation in mice with CIA. A significant reduction in STAT3 phosphorylation and a decrease in the number of Th17 cells were observed with RGE treatment. There was also a marked reduction in RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis with treatment of RGE. The inhibitory effect of RGE on Th17 differentiation and osteoclastogenesis observed in mice was also confirmed in the subsequent experiments performed using human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Our findings provide the first evidence that RGE can regulate Th17 and reciprocally promote Treg cells by inhibiting the phosphorylation of STAT3. Therefore, RGE can ameliorate arthritis in mice with CIA by targeting pathogenic Th17 and osteoclast differentiation, suggesting a novel therapy for treatment of RA.
PMCID: PMC4132415  PMID: 25147435
3.  Prevalence of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in South Korea: An Administrative Database Study 
Journal of Epidemiology  2014;24(4):295-303.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a rare autoimmune disease for which a population-based survey on the prevalence of the disease in South Korea has not yet been conducted. Our goal was to estimate the nationwide prevalence of SLE.
The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) code for SLE diagnosis—M32—was tentatively given when patients were suspected to have SLE before 2009. As such, the positive predictive value (PPV) of the M32 code shown in medical bills reflecting true SLE was uncertain. We attempted to estimate the prevalence of SLE in South Korea using national administrative database data from 2004–2006. We approximated the actual number of SLE patients by analyzing a list of SLE-coded patients provided by the National Health Insurance (NHI) and Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service. Prevalence was estimated by multiplying the PPV of the M32 diagnostic code by the number of patients receiving the code. The PPV was determined by three methods: direct investigation of the medical records of patients randomly selected from the SLE-coded patients list; assessment of all SLE patients treated at 56 selected hospitals in South Korea; and extrapolation from sub-groups at a single institute to the sub-groups of the national NHI data.
The estimated number of national SLE cases was between 9000 and 11 000, depending on the method of ascertainment, corresponding to a prevalence of 18.8–21.7 per 100 000 people.
This is the first report of a nationwide prevalence survey of SLE in South Korea. National databases may serve as a resource for epidemiologic studies of rare autoimmune diseases like SLE.
PMCID: PMC4074634  PMID: 24857955
systemic lupus erythematosus; prevalence; epidemiology
4.  Serum Level of Interleukin-33 and Soluble ST2 and Their Association with Disease Activity in Patients with Behcet's Disease 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2013;28(8):1145-1153.
Interleukin (IL)-33 is an important mediator of innate immunity. Behcet's disease (BD) is an autoinflammatory disorder characterized by hyperactivity of the innate immune response. We measured serum levels of IL-33 and its receptor soluble ST2 (sST2) in patients with BD to investigate their association with disease activity. Serum levels of both IL-33 and sST2 were higher in patients with BD compared with those in normal controls (IL-33: 594.48±175.04 pg/mL in BD and 224.23±56.64 pg/mL in normal controls [P=0.048], sST2: 99.01±15.92 pg/mL in BD and 23.56±3.25 pg/mL in normal controls [P<0.001]). IL-33 and sST2 expression in skin tissue, as shown by immunohistochemistry, was higher in patients with BD compared with that in the normal controls. Serum sST2 level correlated significantly with the BD currently active form (BDCAF), Iranian BD dynamic activity measure (IBDDAM), erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein. Multiple linear regression showed that serum sST2 was an independent factor associated with IBBDAM (regression coefficient, 0.374; P=0.004), and BDCAF (regression coefficient, 0.236; P=0.047). These results demonstrate that IL-33 and sST2 are highly expressed in patients with BD and that serum sST2 is an independent factor associated with IBDDAM and BDCAF, suggesting a potential role for sST2 as a surrogate marker of disease activity in patients with BD.
PMCID: PMC3744701  PMID: 23960440
Interleukin-33; soluble ST2; Behcet Syndrome
5.  IL-17-mediated Bcl-2 expression regulates survival of fibroblast-like synoviocytes in rheumatoid arthritis through STAT3 activation 
Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) are a major cell population of the pannus that invades adjacent cartilage and bone in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study was undertaken to determine the effect of interleukin-17 (IL-17) on the survival and/or proliferation of FLSs from RA patients and to investigate whether signal tranducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is implicated in this process.
Bcl-2 and Bax expression in FLSs was determined using the real-time PCR and western blot analysis. The expression of Bcl-2 and phosphoSTAT3 in synovial tissues was investigated by confocal microscope. Apoptosis of FLSs was detected by Annexin V/propidium iodide staining and/or phase contrast microscopy. The proliferation of FLSs was determined by CCK-8 ELISA assay.
The pro-apoptotic Bax is decreased and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 is increased in FLSs from RA patients compared with those from patients with osteoarthritis (OA). IL-17 upregulated the expression of Bcl-2 in FLSs from RA patients, but not in FLSs from OA patients. STAT3 was found to mediate IL-17-induced Bcl-2 upregulation in FLSs from RA patients. Additionally, IL-17 promoted the survival and proliferation of FLSs from RA patients. Most importantly, treatment with STAT3 inhibitor reversed the protective effect of IL-17 on FLSs apoptosis induced by sodium nitroprusside (SNP).
Our data demonstrate that STAT3 is critical in IL-17-induced survival of FLS from RA patients. Therefore, therapeutic strategies that target the IL-17/STAT3 pathway might be strong candidates for RA treatment modalities.
PMCID: PMC3672783  PMID: 23421940
6.  Periarticular Osteoporosis Is a Prominent Feature in Early Rheumatoid Arthritis: Estimation Using Shaft to Periarticular Bone Mineral Density Ratio 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2013;28(2):287-294.
We aimed to quantify periarticular osteoporosis and investigate its significance in 45 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 106 controls. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) was used to determine the ratio of shaft to periarticular bone mineral density (BMD) as an index of periarticular demineralization. Periarticular osteoporosis was measured by conventional radiography. The BMDs of shaft and periarticular regions in eight designated areas on proximal phalanges were quantified. Clinical variables were examined to identify risk factors for periarticular osteoporosis. The assessment of periarticular osteoporosis on X-ray images reached a moderate degree of interobserver agreement among four physicians (ĸ = 0.47). For BMD quantification, we designed three types of mathematical formulae: the ratio of shaft to periarticular BMD, the mean of the ratios, and the ratio of the sums. These ratios were significantly higher in the patients with early RA (disease duration ≤ 3 yr) than in controls (P < 0.01). The findings were not as distinctive in patients with established RA. Body mass index, cumulative dose of corticosteroid, and C-terminal telopeptide were correlated with BMD ratios. Conclusively, DXA-assisted localized quantification and BMD ratio calculations are feasible for assessing periarticular demineralization. Periarticular osteoporosis is a relatively distinctive feature of early RA.
PMCID: PMC3565142  PMID: 23399828
Bone Density; Arthrits; Rheumatoid; Periarticular Osteopenia
7.  Regression of syndesmophyte after bone marrow transplantation for acute myeloid leukemia in a patient with ankylosing spondylitis: a case report 
Disease progression of ankylosing spondylitis has been considered irreversible. However, we report a case of spontaneous regression of syndesmophyte development following allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation in a patient with acute myeloid leukemia, who was also diagnosed as having ankylosing spondylitis. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case report presenting the partial radiologic regression of syndesmophytes.
Case presentation
A 39-year-old man with active ankylosing spondylitis achieved clinical remission and partial radiological regression of cervical spine syndesmophytes following a peripheral blood stem cell transplantation for acute myeloid leukemia. Our patient received an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation following a pre-transplantation conditioning regimen of total body irradiation and cyclophosphamide. The donor was a human leukocyte antigen-matched 29-year-old man. Our patient has remained asymptomatic and has received no medication for ankylosing spondylitis for nearly three years.
Several explanations are proposed for the regression of syndesmophytes and clinical improvement in active ankylosing spondylitis observed in our patient, including changes in bone remodeling and immune reconstitution following stem cell transplantation, the effect of immunosuppressive agents, or fluctuation in the natural course of ankylosing spondylitis although further studies are required. The regression of syndesmophytes in ankylosing spondylitis in this case raises the possibility that stem cell transplantation might contribute to the development of a novel therapeutic strategy for treatment of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3459693  PMID: 22909092
8.  TLR2 ligation induces the production of IL-23/IL-17 via IL-6, STAT3 and NF-kB pathway in patients with primary Sjogren's syndrome 
The study was undertaken to investigate the interrelation of toll-like receptor (TLR) and interleukin (IL)-17 in the salivary glands of patients with primary Sjogren's syndrome (pSS) and to determine the role of TLR and IL-17 in the pathophysiology of pSS.
The expressions of various TLRs, IL-17 and the cytokines involved in Th17 cell differentiation including IL-6, IL-23, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and IL-1β were examined by immunohistochemistry in salivary glands of pSS patients. The IL-17 producing CD4+ T cells (Th17 cells) were examined by flow cytometry and confocal staining in peripheral mononuclear blood cells (PMBCs) and salivary glands of pSS patients. After PBMCs were treated with TLR specific ligands, the induction of IL-17 and IL-23 was determined using real-time PCR and ELISA. The signaling pathway that mediates the TLR2 stimulated production of IL-17 and IL-23 was investigated by using treatment with specific signaling inhibitors.
We showed that TLR2, TLR4, TLR6, IL-17 and the cytokines associated with Th17 cells were highly expressed in salivary glands of pSS patients but not in controls. The expressions of TLR2, TLR4 and TLR6 were observed in the infiltrating mononuclear cells and ductal epithelial cells, whereas IL-17 was mainly observed in infiltrating CD4+ T cells. The number of IL-17 producing CD4+ T cells was significantly higher in pSS patients both in PBMCs and minor salivary glands. The stimulation of TLR2, TLR4 and TLR6 additively induced the production of IL-17 and IL-23 from the PBMCs of pSS patients especially in the presence of TLR2 stimulation. IL-6, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB) pathways were implicated in the TLR2 stimulated IL-17 and IL-23.
Our data demonstrate that TLR2 ligation induces the production of IL-23/IL-17 via IL-6, STAT3 and NF-kB pathway in pSS. Therefore, therapeutic strategies that target TLR/IL-17 pathway might be strong candidates for treatment modalities of pSS.
PMCID: PMC3446432  PMID: 22417709
9.  Impact of interleukin-21 in the pathogenesis of primary Sjogren's syndrome: increased serum levels of interleukin-21 and its expression in the labial salivary glands 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2011;13(5):R179.
Interleukin (IL)-21 is a cytokine that controls the functional activity of effector T helper cells and the differentiation of Th17 cells, and promotes B-cell differentiation. To test whether IL-21 participates in the pathogenesis of primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS), serum IL-21 level was measured and IL-21 expression in the labial salivary glands (LSG) was examined.
Serum IL-21 levels in 40 primary SS, 40 rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and 38 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients and 20 healthy controls were measured. Serum IL-21 levels of SS patients were assessed for correlations with laboratory data, including anti-nuclear antibody, anti-Ro/La antibodies, globulin, immunoglobulin (Ig) class, and IgG subclass. LSGs from 16 primary SS and 4 controls with sicca symptoms were evaluated for IL-21 and IL-21 receptor (IL-21R) expression by immunohistochemistry. Confocal microscopy was performed to further characterize the IL-21 positive cells.
Primary SS patients had significantly higher serum IL-21 levels than controls, and these increments correlated positively with levels of IgG, IgG1. Serum IgG1 levels correlated with anti-Ro antibody titers. Immunohistochemical analyses showed that lymphocytic foci and the periductal area of the LSGs from SS patients expressed high levels of IL-21 and lower levels of IL-21R, whereas the control LSGs showed minimal expression of both antigens. The more the lymphocyte infiltrated, IL-21expression in LSGs showed a tendency to increase. Confocal microscopic analyses revealed that IL-21 expressing infiltrating lymphocytes in the LSGs of SS patients also expressed CXCR5.
Primary SS is associated with high serum IL-21 levels that correlate positively with serum IgG, especially IgG1, levels. The expression of IL-21 is increased as more lymphocytes infiltrated in LSGs. These observations suggest that IL-21 may play an important role in primary SS pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3308114  PMID: 22030011
IL-21; IL-21 receptor; Sjogren's syndrome; Immunoglobulin G1; Labial salivary gland
10.  Engagement of Toll-Like Receptor 3 Induces Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Interleukin-8 in Human Rheumatoid Synovial Fibroblasts 
Angiogenesis, which is a critical step in the initiation and progression of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), involves pro-angiogenic factors, including interleukin (IL)-8 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). We investigated the role of Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) in the regulation of pro-angiogenic factors in RA fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS).
FLS were isolated from RA synovial tissues and stimulated with the TLR3 ligand, poly (I:C). The levels of VEGF and IL-8 in the culture supernatants were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, and the mRNA levels were assessed by semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. The expression patterns of VEGF and IL-8 in the RA synovium and osteoarthritis (OA) synovium were compared using immunohistochemistry.
The expression levels of TLR3, VEGF, and IL-8 were significantly higher in the RA synovium than in the OA synovium. VEGF and IL-8 production were increased in the culture supernatants of RA FLS stimulated with poly (I:C), and the genes for these proteins were up-regulated at the transcriptional level after poly (I:C) treatment. Treatment with inhibitors of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB), i.e., pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate and parthenolide, abrogated the stimulatory effect of poly (I:C) on the production of VEGF and IL-8 in RA FLS.
Our results suggest that the activation of TLR3 in RA FLS promotes the production of proangiogenic factors, in a process that is mediated by the NF-κB signaling pathway. Therefore, targeting the TLR3 pathway may be a promising approach to preventing pathologic angiogenesis in RA.
PMCID: PMC2997973  PMID: 21179282
Toll-like receptor 3; Arthritis, rheumatoid; Vascular endothelial growth factor; Interleukin-8; Synovial fibroblast
11.  Dysfunctional interferon-α production by peripheral plasmacytoid dendritic cells upon Toll-like receptor-9 stimulation in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
It is well known that interferon (IFN)-α is important to the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, several reports have indicated that the number of IFN-α producing cells are decreased or that their function is defective in patients with SLE. We studied the function of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) under persistent stimulation of Toll-like receptor (TLR)9 via a TLR9 ligand (CpG ODN2216) or SLE serum.
The concentrations of IFN-α were determined in serum and culture supernatant of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from SLE patients and healthy controls after stimulation with CpG ODN2216 or SLE serum. The numbers of circulating pDCs were analyzed by fluoresence-activated cell sorting analysis. pDCs were treated with CpG ODN2216 and SLE serum repeatedly, and levels of produced IFN-α were measured. The expression of IFN-α signature genes and inhibitory molecules of TLR signaling were examined in PBMCs from SLE patients and healthy control individuals.
Although there was no significant difference in serum concentration of IFN-α and number of circulating pDCs between SLE patients and healthy control individuals, the IFN-α producing capacity of PBMCs was significantly reduced in SLE patients. Interestingly, the degree which TLR9 ligand-induced IFN-α production in SLE PBMCs was inversely correlated with the SLE serum-induced production of IFN-α in healthy PMBCs. Because repeated stimulation pDCs with TLR9 ligands showed decreased level of IFN-α production, continuous TLR9 stimulation may lead to decreased production of IFN-α in SLE PBMCs. In addition, PBMCs isolated from SLE patients exhibited higher expression of IFN-α signature genes and inhibitory molecules of TLR signaling, indicating that these cells had already undergone IFN-α stimulation and had become desensitized to TLR signaling.
We suggest that the persistent presence of endogenous IFN-α inducing factors induces TLR tolerance in pDCs of SLE patients, leading to impaired production of IFN-α.
PMCID: PMC2453773  PMID: 18321389
12.  Cryptococcal Meningitis Presenting with Isolated Sixth Cranial Nerve Palsy in a Patient with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Journal of Korean Medical Science  2008;23(1):153-155.
Cryptococcal meningitis is a rare complication of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The nonspecific neurologic findings associated with this infection delays accurate diagnosis because initial neuropsychiatric manifestations of SLE are in instances indistinguishable from that of crytococcal meningitis. We report a case of cryptococcal meningitis presenting with unilateral sixth cranial nerve palsy in a male patient with SLE, which was successfully treated with antifungal agents.
PMCID: PMC2526483  PMID: 18303219
Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic; Meningitis, Cryptococcal; Abducens Nerve Palsy

Results 1-12 (12)