Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease that follows an unpredictable disease course and affects multiple organs and tissues. We performed an integrated, multi-cohort analysis of 7,471 transcriptomic profiles from 40 independent studies to identify robust gene expression changes associated with SLE. We identified a 93-gene signature (SLE MetaSignature) that is differentially expressed in the blood of SLE patients compared to healthy volunteers; distinguishes SLE from other autoimmune, inflammatory, and infectious diseases; and persists across diverse tissues and cell types. The SLE MetaSignature correlated significantly with disease activity and other clinical measures of inflammation. We prospectively validated the SLE MetaSignature in an independent cohort of pediatric SLE patients using a microfluidic RT-qPCR array. We found that 14 of the 93 genes in the SLE MetaSignature were independent of interferon-induced and neutrophil-related transcriptional profiles that have previously been associated with SLE. Pathway analysis revealed dysregulation associated with nucleic acid biosynthesis and immunometabolism in SLE. We further refined a neutropoeisis signature and identified novel transcripts related to immune cells and oxidative stress. Our multi-cohort, transcriptomic analysis has uncovered novel genes and pathways associated with SLE pathogenesis, with the potential to advance clinical diagnosis, biomarker development, and targeted therapeutics for SLE.
Winston A. Haynes, David James Haddon, Vivian Diep, Avani Khatri, Erika Bongen, Gloria Yiu, Imelda Balboni, Christopher R. Bolen, Rong Mao, Paul J. Utz, Purvesh Khatri