Belimumab has therapeutic benefit in active systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), especially in patients with high-titer anti-dsDNA antibodies. We asked whether the profound B cell loss in belimumab-treated SLE patients is accompanied by shifts in the immunoglobulin repertoire. We enrolled 15 patients who had been continuously treated with belimumab for more than 7 years, 17 matched controls, and 5 patients who were studied before and after drug initiation. VH genes of sort-purified mature B cells and plasmablasts were subjected to next-generation sequencing. We found that B cell–activating factor (BAFF) regulates the transitional B cell checkpoint, with conservation of transitional 1 (T1) cells and approximately 90% loss of T3 and naive B cells after chronic belimumab treatment. Class-switched memory B cells, B1 B cells, and plasmablasts were also substantially depleted. Next-generation sequencing revealed no redistribution of VH, DH, or JH family usage and no effect of belimumab on representation of the autoreactive VH4-34 gene or CDR3 composition in unmutated IgM sequences, suggesting a minimal effect on selection of the naive B cell repertoire. Interestingly, a significantly greater loss of VH4-34 was observed among mutated IgM and plasmablast sequences in chronic belimumab–treated subjects than in controls, suggesting that belimumab promotes negative selection of activated autoreactive B cells.
Weiqing Huang, Tam D. Quach, Cosmin Dascalu, Zheng Liu, Tungming Leung, Miranda Byrne-Steele, Wenjing Pan, Qunying Yang, Jian Han, Martin Lesser, Thomas L. Rothstein, Richard Furie, Meggan Mackay, Cynthia Aranow, Anne Davidson
Defective DNA methylation in T cells leads to a series of T cell abnormalities in lupus; however, the full effect of T cell lineage–specific DNA methylation on disease expression has not been explored. Here, we show that 5-azacytidine, a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, targeted to either CD4 or CD8 T cells in mice with established disease using a nanolipogel delivery system dramatically ameliorates lupus-related pathology through distinct mechanisms. In vivo targeted delivery of 5-azacytidine into CD4 T cells favors the expansion and function of Foxp3+ Tregs, whereas targeted delivery to CD8 T cells enhances the cytotoxicity and restrains the expansion of pathogenic TCR-αβ+CD4–CD8– double-negative T cells. Our results signify the importance of cell-specific inhibition of DNA methylation in the treatment of established lupus.
Hao Li, Maria G. Tsokos, Sean Bickerton, Amir Sharabi, Yi Li, Vaishali R. Moulton, Philip Kong, Tarek M. Fahmy, George C. Tsokos
Severe lung inflammation and alveolar hemorrhage can be life-threatening in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients if not treated early and aggressively. Neutrophil influx is the driver key of this pathology, but little is known regarding the molecular events regulating this recruitment. Here, we uncover a role for IL-16/mir-125a in this pathology and show not only that IL-16 is a target for miR-125a but that reduced miR-125a expression in SLE patients associates with lung involvement. Furthermore, in the pristane model of acute “SLE-like” lung inflammation and alveolar hemorrhage, we observed reduced pulmonary miR-125a and enhanced IL-16 expression. Neutrophil infiltration was markedly reduced in the peritoneal lavage of pristane-treated IL-16–deficient mice and elevated following i.n. delivery of IL-16. Moreover, a miR-125a mimic reduced pristane-induced IL-16 expression and neutrophil recruitment and rescued lung pathology. Mechanistically, IL-16 acts directly on the pulmonary epithelium and markedly enhances neutrophil chemoattractant expression both in vitro and in vivo, while the miR-125a mimic can prevent this. Our results reveal a role for miR-125a/IL-16 in regulating lung inflammation and suggest this axis may be a therapeutic target for management of acute lung injury in SLE.
Siobhan Smith, Pei Wen Wu, Jane J. Seo, Thilini Fernando, Mengyao Jin, Jorge Contreras, Erica N. Montano, Joan Ní Gabhann, Kyle Cunningham, Amro Widaa, Eoghan M. McCarthy, Eamonn S. Molloy, Grainne Kearns, Conor C. Murphy, Weiping Kong, Harry Björkbacka, Hardy Kornfeld, Lindsy Forbess, Swamy Venuturupalli, Mariko Ishimori, Daniel Wallace, Michael H. Weisman, Caroline A. Jefferies
Coinhibitory receptors play an important role in the prevention of autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), by limiting T cell activation. B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA) is an inhibitory receptor, similar to cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death 1 (PD1), that negatively regulates the immune response. The role of BTLA in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases in humans and, more specifically, in SLE is largely unknown. We investigated BTLA expression on various T cell subsets, and we did not observe significant variations of BTLA expression between lupus patients and healthy controls. However, the enhancement of BTLA expression after activation was significantly lower in SLE patients compared with that in healthy controls. Furthermore, we found an impaired capacity of BTLA to inhibit T cell activation in SLE due to a poor BTLA recruitment to the immunological synapse following T cell stimulation. Finally, we demonstrated that defective BTLA function can be corrected by restoring intracellular trafficking and by normalizing the lipid metabolism in lupus CD4+ T cells. Collectively, our results evidence that the BTLA signaling pathway is altered in SLE T cells and highlight the potential of targeting this pathway for the development of new therapeutic strategies in lupus.
Matthieu Sawaf, Jean-Daniel Fauny, Renaud Felten, Flora Sagez, Jacques-Eric Gottenberg, Hélène Dumortier, Fanny Monneaux
Persistent fibrosis in multiple organs is the hallmark of systemic sclerosis (SSc). Recent genetic and genomic studies implicate TLRs and their damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) endogenous ligands in fibrosis. To test the hypothesis that TLR4 and its coreceptor myeloid differentiation 2 (MD2) drive fibrosis persistence, we measured MD2/TLR4 signaling in tissues from patients with fibrotic SSc, and we examined the impact of MD2 targeting using a potentially novel small molecule. Levels of MD2 and TLR4, and a TLR4-responsive gene signature, were enhanced in SSc skin biopsies. We developed a small molecule that selectively blocks MD2, which is uniquely required for TLR4 signaling. Targeting MD2/TLR4 abrogated inducible and constitutive myofibroblast transformation and matrix remodeling in fibroblast monolayers, as well as in 3-D scleroderma skin equivalents and human skin explants. Moreover, the selective TLR4 inhibitor prevented organ fibrosis in several preclinical disease models and mouse strains, and it reversed preexisting fibrosis. Fibroblast-specific deletion of TLR4 in mice afforded substantial protection from skin and lung fibrosis. By comparing experimentally generated fibroblast TLR4 gene signatures with SSc skin biopsy gene expression datasets, we identified a subset of SSc patients displaying an activated TLR4 signature. Together, results from these human and mouse studies implicate MD2/TLR4-dependent fibroblast activation as a key driver of persistent organ fibrosis. The results suggest that SSc patients with high TLR4 activity might show optimal therapeutic response to selective inhibitors of MD2/TLR4 complex formation.
Swati Bhattacharyya, Wenxia Wang, Wenyi Qin, Kui Cheng, Sara Coulup, Sherry Chavez, Shuangshang Jiang, Kirtee Raparia, Lucia Maria V. De Almeida, Christian Stehlik, Zenshiro Tamaki, Hang Yin, John Varga
Lupus nephritis is a major cause of morbidity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Among the different types of lupus nephritis, intracapillary immune complex (IC) deposition and accumulation of monocytes are hallmarks of lupus nephritis class III and IV. The relevance of intracapillary ICs in terms of monocyte recruitment and activation, as well as the nature and function of these monocytes are not well understood. For the early focal form of lupus nephritis (class III) we demonstrate a selective accumulation of the proinflammatory population of 6-sulfo LacNAc+ (slan) monocytes (slanMo), which locally expressed TNF-α. Immobilized ICs induced a direct recruitment of slanMo from the microcirculation via interaction with Fc γ receptor IIIA (CD16). Interestingly, intravenous immunoglobulins blocked CD16 and prevented cell recruitment. Engagement of immobilized ICs by slanMo induced the production of neutrophil-attracting chemokine CXCL2 as well as TNF-α, which in a forward feedback loop stimulated endothelial cells to produce the slanMo-recruiting chemokine CX3CL1 (fractalkine). In conclusion, we observed that expression of CD16 equips slanMo with a unique capacity to orchestrate early IC-induced inflammatory responses in glomeruli and identified slanMo as a pathogenic proinflammatory cell type in lupus nephritis.
Florina Olaru, Thomas Döbel, Anke S. Lonsdorf, Stephanie Oehrl, Michael Maas, Alexander H. Enk, Marc Schmitz, Elisabeth F. Gröne, Hermann-J. Gröne, Knut Schäkel
Foxp3-positive regulatory T cells (Tregs) are crucial for the maintenance of immune homeostasis and keep immune responses in check. Upon activation, Tregs are transferred into an effector state expressing transcripts essential for their suppressive activity, migration, and survival. However, it is not completely understood how different intrinsic and environmental factors control differentiation. Here, we present for the first time to our knowledge data suggesting that Treg-intrinsic expression of CD83 is essential for Treg differentiation upon activation. Interestingly, mice with Treg-intrinsic CD83 deficiency are characterized by a proinflammatory phenotype. Furthermore, the loss of CD83 expression by Tregs leads to the downregulation of Treg-specific differentiation markers and the induction of an inflammatory profile. In addition, Treg-specific conditional knockout mice showed aggravated autoimmunity and an impaired resolution of inflammation. Altogether, our results show that CD83 expression in Tregs is an essential factor for the development and function of effector Tregs upon activation. Since Tregs play a crucial role in the maintenance of immune tolerance and thus prevention of autoimmune disorders, our findings are also clinically relevant.
Marina Doebbeler, Christina Koenig, Lena Krzyzak, Christine Seitz, Andreas Wild, Thomas Ulas, Kevin Baßler, Dmitry Kopelyanskiy, Alina Butterhof, Christine Kuhnt, Simon Kreiser, Lena Stich, Elisabeth Zinser, Ilka Knippertz, Stefan Wirtz, Christin Riegel, Petra Hoffmann, Matthias Edinger, Lars Nitschke, Thomas Winkler, Joachim L. Schultze, Alexander Steinkasserer, Matthias Lechmann
The excessive production of type I IFNs is a hallmark and a main pathogenic mechanism of many autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In these pathologies, the sustained secretion of type I IFNs is dependent on the improper activation of plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) by self–nucleic acids. However, the nature and origin of pDC-activating self–nucleic acids is still incompletely characterized. Here, we report that exosomes isolated from the plasma of SLE patients can activate the secretion of IFN-α by human blood pDCs in vitro. This activation requires endosomal acidification and is recapitulated by microRNAs isolated from exosomes, suggesting that exosome-delivered microRNAs act as self-ligands of innate single-stranded endosomal RNA sensors. By using synthetic microRNAs, we identified an IFN induction motif that is responsible for the TLR7-dependent activation, maturation, and survival of human pDCs. These findings identify exosome-delivered microRNAs as potentially novel TLR7 endogenous ligands able to induce pDC activation in SLE patients. Therefore, microRNAs may represent novel pathogenic mediators in the onset of autoimmune reactions and potential therapeutic targets in the treatment of type I IFN–mediated diseases.
Valentina Salvi, Veronica Gianello, Sara Busatto, Paolo Bergese, Laura Andreoli, Ugo D’Oro, Alessandra Zingoni, Angela Tincani, Silvano Sozzani, Daniela Bosisio
BACKGROUND. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with enhanced risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease not explained by Framingham risk score (FRS). Immune dysregulation associated to a distinct subset of lupus proinflammatory neutrophils (low density granulocytes; LDGs) may play key roles in conferring enhanced CV risk. This study assessed if lupus LDGs are associated with in vivo vascular dysfunction and inflammation and coronary plaque. METHODS. SLE subjects and healthy controls underwent multimodal phenotyping of vascular disease by quantifying vascular inflammation (18F-fluorodeoxyglucose–PET/CT [18F-FDG–PET/CT]), arterial dysfunction (EndoPAT and cardio-ankle vascular index), and coronary plaque burden (coronary CT angiography). LDGs were quantified by flow cytometry. Cholesterol efflux capacity was measured in high-density lipoprotein–exposed (HDL-exposed) radioactively labeled cell lines. Whole blood RNA sequencing was performed to assess associations between transcriptomic profiles and vascular phenotype. RESULTS. Vascular inflammation, arterial stiffness, and noncalcified plaque burden (NCB) were increased in SLE compared with controls even after adjustment for traditional risk factors. In SLE, NCB directly associated with LDGs and associated negatively with cholesterol efflux capacity in fully adjusted models. A neutrophil gene signature reflective of the most upregulated genes in lupus LDGs associated with vascular inflammation and NCB. CONCLUSION. Individuals with SLE demonstrate vascular inflammation, arterial dysfunction, and NCB, which may explain the higher reported risk for acute coronary syndromes. The association of LDGs and neutrophil genes with vascular disease supports the hypothesis that distinct neutrophil subsets contribute to vascular damage and unstable coronary plaque in SLE. Results also support previous observations that neutrophils may disrupt HDL function and thereby promote atherogenesis. TRIAL REGISTRATION. Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00001372 FUNDING. Intramural Research Program NIAMS/NIH (ZIA AR041199) and Lupus Research Institute
Philip M. Carlucci, Monica M. Purmalek, Amit K. Dey, Yenealem Temesgen-Oyelakin, Simantini Sakhardande, Aditya A. Joshi, Joseph B. Lerman, Alice Fike, Michael Davis, Jonathan H. Chung, Martin P. Playford, Mohammad Naqi, Pragnesh Mistry, Gustavo Gutierrez-Cruz, Stefania Dell’Orso, Faiza Naz, Taufiq Salahuddin, Balaji Natarajan, Zerai Manna, Wanxia L. Tsai, Sarthak Gupta, Peter Grayson, Heather Teague, Marcus Y. Chen, Hong-Wei Sun, Sarfaraz Hasni, Nehal N. Mehta, Mariana J. Kaplan
Mesenchymal TNF signaling is etiopathogenic for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis (SpA). The role of Tnfr1 in arthritis has been documented; however, Tnfr2 functions are unknown. Here, we investigate the mesenchymal-specific role of Tnfr2 in the TnfΔARE mouse model of SpA in arthritis and heart valve stenosis comorbidity by cell-specific, Col6a1-cre–driven gene targeting. We find that TNF/Tnfr2 signaling in resident synovial fibroblasts (SFs) and valvular interstitial cells (VICs) is detrimental for both pathologies, pointing to common cellular mechanisms. In contrast, systemic Tnfr2 provides protective signaling, since its complete deletion leads to severe deterioration of both pathologies. SFs and VICs lacking Tnfr2 fail to acquire pathogenic activated phenotypes and display increased expression of antiinflammatory cytokines associated with decreased Akt signaling. Comparative RNA sequencing experiments showed that the majority of the deregulated pathways in TnfΔARE mesenchymal-origin SFs and VICs, including proliferation, inflammation, migration, and disease-specific genes, are regulated by Tnfr2; thus, in its absence, they are maintained in a quiescent nonpathogenic state. Our data indicate a pleiotropy of Tnfr2 functions, with mesenchymal Tnfr2 driving cell activation and arthritis/valve stenosis pathogenesis only in the presence of systemic Tnfr2, whereas nonmesenchymal Tnfr2 overcomes this function, providing protective signals and, thus, containing both pathologies.
Maria Sakkou, Panagiotis Chouvardas, Lydia Ntari, Alejandro Prados, Kristin Moreth, Helmut Fuchs, Valerie Gailus-Durner, Martin Hrabe de Angelis, Maria C. Denis, Niki Karagianni, George Kollias
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