Honors & Awards
ARCS Award, Kimball Foundation Scholar, Stanford University (2018-2020)
Stanford Graduate Fellowship, Gabilan Fellow, Stanford University (2015-2018)
Charles B. Peterson Award in Chemistry, Southern Methodist University (2008)
Charles T. Kenner Award in Chemistry, Southern Methodist University (2008)
Harold Jeskey Scholarship in Chemistry, Southern Methodist University (2008)
American Chemical Society Analytical Award, Southern Methodist University (2007)
Southern Methodist University Dean’s Scholarship, Southern Methodist University (2004-2009)
Education & Certifications
PhD, Stanford University, Biophysics (2021)
BS, Southern Methodist University, Chemistry (2009)
Lingyin Li, Doctoral Dissertation Advisor (AC)
Engineered DNA plasmid reduces immunity to dystrophin while improving muscle force in a model of gene therapy of Duchenne dystrophy.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
In gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy there are two potential immunological obstacles. An individual with Duchenne muscular dystrophy has a genetic mutation in dystrophin, and therefore the wild-type protein is "foreign," and thus potentially immunogenic. The adeno-associated virus serotype-6 (AAV6) vector for delivery of dystrophin is a viral-derived vector with its own inherent immunogenicity. We have developed a technology where an engineered plasmid DNA is delivered to reduce autoimmunity. We have taken this approach into humans, tolerizing to myelin proteins in multiple sclerosis and to proinsulin in type 1 diabetes. Here, we extend this technology to a model of gene therapy to reduce the immunogenicity of the AAV vector and of the wild-type protein product that is missing in the genetic disease. Following gene therapy with systemic administration of recombinant AAV6-microdystrophin to mdx/mTRG2 mice, we demonstrated the development of antibodies targeting dystrophin and AAV6 capsid in control mice. Treatment with the engineered DNA construct encoding microdystrophin markedly reduced antibody responses to dystrophin and to AAV6. Muscle force in the treated mice was also improved compared with control mice. These data highlight the potential benefits of administration of an engineered DNA plasmid encoding the delivered protein to overcome critical barriers in gene therapy to achieve optimal functional gene expression.
View details for PubMedID 30181272
Development of a Multiantigen Panel for Improved Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi Infection in Early Lyme Disease
JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY
2015; 53 (12): 3834-3841
The current standard for laboratory diagnosis of Lyme disease in the United States is serologic detection of antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a two-tiered testing algorithm; however, this scheme has limited sensitivity for detecting early Lyme disease. Thus, there is a need to improve diagnostics for Lyme disease at the early stage, when antibiotic treatment is highly efficacious. We examined novel and established antigen markers to develop a multiplex panel that identifies early infection using the combined sensitivity of multiple markers while simultaneously maintaining high specificity by requiring positive results for two markers to designate a positive test. Ten markers were selected from our initial analysis of 62 B. burgdorferi surface proteins and synthetic peptides by assessing binding of IgG and IgM to each in a training set of Lyme disease patient samples and controls. In a validation set, this 10-antigen panel identified a higher proportion of early-Lyme-disease patients as positive at the baseline or posttreatment visit than two-tiered testing (87.5% and 67.5%, respectively; P < 0.05). Equivalent specificities of 100% were observed in 26 healthy controls. Upon further analysis, positivity on the novel 10-antigen panel was associated with longer illness duration and multiple erythema migrans. The improved sensitivity and comparable specificity of our 10-antigen panel compared to two-tiered testing in detecting early B. burgdorferi infection indicates that multiplex analysis, featuring the next generation of markers, could advance diagnostic technology to better aid clinicians in diagnosing and treating early Lyme disease.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JCM.02111-15
View details for Web of Science ID 000367532800020
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4652118
Combination of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies and rheumatoid factor is associated with increased systemic inflammatory mediators and more rapid progression from preclinical to clinical rheumatoid arthritis.
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)
The development of rheumatoid factor (RF) and/or anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs) can be observed years prior to clinical diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Nevertheless, the interaction between these two autoantibodies and their combined effect on development of RA is unclear. We measured RF, cytokines, and ACPA subtypes in serial pre-clinical serum samples collected from 83 US veterans who all developed RA. Levels of cytokines and ACPAs were compared between the following groups: anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP)-/RF- (double negative), anti-CCP+/RF-, anti-CCP-/RF+, or anti-CCP+/RF+ (double-positive). The double-positive subgroup had significantly higher levels of 20 inflammatory cytokines and 29 ACPA reactivities, and the shortest interval, 1.3 years, between the preclinical sample timepoint and diagnosis of RA. Thus, the combined presence of ACPAs and RF is associated with a more rapid progression to RA, suggesting that anti-CCP+/RF+ individuals have a more advanced preclinical disease state and that the onset of RA may be imminent.
View details for PubMedID 29842946
Antibody Responses to Citrullinated and Noncitrullinated Antigens in the Sputum of Subjects With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Subjects at Risk for Development of Rheumatoid Arthritis
ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY
2018; 70 (4): 516–27
The location and mechanisms involved in the initial generation of autoantibodies to citrullinated and noncitrullinated proteins/peptides during the natural history of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) development is incompletely understood. This study sought to explore individual antibody responses to citrullinated and noncitrullinated proteins/peptides in the sputum and associations with neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in subjects at risk for the future development of RA.Serum and sputum samples were obtained from 41 RA-free subjects who were considered at risk for the development of RA based on familial or serologic risk factors, from 20 subjects classified as having RA, and from 22 healthy control subjects. Samples were evaluated using a bead-based array for IgG reactivity to 29 citrullinated proteins/peptides and 21 noncitrullinated proteins/peptides. Cutoff levels for antibody positivity were established in a separate control group. NET levels in the sputum were measured using sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays that quantitate DNA-myeloperoxidase and DNA-neutrophil elastase complexes.In at-risk subjects, antibody responses to the citrullinated forms of fibrinogen, apolipoprotein E, and fibronectin were highly prevalent. The most citrulline-specific antibodies in the sputum of at-risk subjects were those to fibrinogen, vimentin, and peptides of fibrinogen A and apolipoprotein A1. Patterns of sputum autoantibody positivity differed between at-risk subjects and subjects with RA. In at-risk subjects, increasing sputum NET levels significantly correlated with several citrullinated and some noncitrullinated antibody reactivities.These findings suggest that sputum antibody reactivity to particular citrullinated and noncitrullinated proteins/peptides is specific for RA and for subjects at risk of RA, and the association of these proteins/peptides with NETs may be a key feature of early RA-related autoimmunity in the lung. These results further support the hypothesis that the lung plays a role in early RA-related autoimmunity.
View details for PubMedID 29266801
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5876113
Association Between Anti-Citrullinated Fibrinogen Antibodies and Coronary Artery Disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Arthritis care & research
2018; 70 (7): 1113–17
Antibodies against citrullinated fibrinogen (anti-Cit-fibrinogen) have been implicated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and associated with cardiovascular risk in RA. The objective of this study was to examine the association between anti-Cit-fibrinogens and coronary artery disease (CAD) outcomes.We performed the study in an RA cohort based in a large academic institution linked with electronic medical record data containing information on CAD outcomes from medical record review. Using a published bead-based assay method, we measured 10 types of anti-Cit-fibrinogens. We applied a score test to determine the association between the anti-Cit-fibrinogens as a group with CAD outcomes. Principal components analysis (PCA) was performed to assess whether the anti-Cit-fibrinogens clustered into groups. Each group was then additionally tested for association with CAD. Sensitivity analyses were also performed using a published International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision code group for ischemic heart disease (IHD) as the outcome.We studied 1,006 RA subjects (mean ± SD age 61.0 ± 13.0 years; 72.2% anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide positive). As a group, anti-Cit-fibrinogen was associated with CAD (P = 1.1 × 10-4 ). From the PCA analysis, we observed 3 main groups, of which only 1 group, containing 7 of the 10 anti-Cit-fibrinogens, was significantly associated with CAD outcomes (P = 0.015). In the sensitivity analysis, all anti-Cit-fibrinogens as a group remained significantly associated with IHD (P = 2.9 × 10-4 ).Anti-Cit-fibrinogen antibodies as a group were associated with CAD outcomes in our RA cohort, with the strongest signal for association arising from a subset of the autoantibodies.
View details for DOI 10.1002/acr.23444
View details for PubMedID 28992379
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5891393
Circulating plasmablasts are elevated and produce pathogenic anti-endothelial cell autoantibodies in idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension.
European journal of immunology
Idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) is a devastating pulmonary vascular disease in which autoimmune and inflammatory phenomena are implicated. B cells and autoantibodies have been associated with IPAH and identified as potential therapeutic targets. However, the specific populations of B cells involved and their roles in disease pathogenesis are not clearly defined. We aimed to assess the levels of activated B cells (plasmablasts) in IPAH, and to characterize recombinant antibodies derived from these plasmablasts. Blood plasmablasts are elevated in IPAH, remain elevated over time, and produce IgA autoantibodies. Single-cell sequencing of plasmablasts in IPAH revealed repertoires of affinity-matured antibodies with small clonal expansions, consistent with an ongoing autoimmune response. Recombinant antibodies representative of these clonal lineages bound known autoantigen targets and displayed an unexpectedly high degree of polyreactivity. Representative IPAH plasmablast recombinant antibodies stimulated human umbilical vein endothelial cells to produce cytokines and overexpress the adhesion molecule ICAM-1. Together, our results demonstrate an ongoing adaptive autoimmune response involving IgA plasmablasts that produce anti-endothelial cell autoantibodies in IPAH. These antibodies stimulate endothelial cell production of cytokines and adhesion molecules, which may contribute to disease pathogenesis. These findings suggest a role for mucosally-driven autoimmunity and autoimmune injury in the pathogenesis of IPAH. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
View details for PubMedID 29369345
Phenome-Wide Association Study of Autoantibodies to Citrullinated and Noncitrullinated Epitopes in Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Arthritis & rheumatology (Hoboken, N.J.)
2017; 69 (4): 742–49
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) develop autoantibodies against a spectrum of antigens, but the clinical significance of these autoantibodies is unclear. Using a phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) approach, we examined the association between autoantibodies and clinical subphenotypes of RA.This study was conducted in a cohort of RA patients identified from the electronic medical records (EMRs) of 2 tertiary care centers. Using a published multiplex bead assay, we measured 36 autoantibodies targeting epitopes implicated in RA. We extracted all International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes for each subject and grouped them into disease categories (PheWAS codes), using a published method. We tested for the association of each autoantibody (grouped by the targeted protein) with PheWAS codes. To determine significant associations (at a false discovery rate [FDR] of ≤0.1), we reviewed the medical records of 50 patients with each PheWAS code to determine positive predictive values (PPVs).We studied 1,006 RA patients; the mean ± SD age of the patients was 61.0 ± 12.9 years, and 79.0% were female. A total of 3,568 unique ICD-9 codes were grouped into 625 PheWAS codes; the 206 PheWAS codes with a prevalence of ≥3% were studied. Using the PheWAS method, we identified 24 significant associations of autoantibodies to epitopes at an FDR of ≤0.1. The associations that were strongest and had the highest PPV for the PheWAS code were autoantibodies against fibronectin and obesity (P = 6.1 × 10-4 , PPV 100%), and that between fibrinogen and pneumonopathy (P = 2.7 × 10-4 , PPV 96%). Pneumonopathy codes included diagnoses for cryptogenic organizing pneumonia and obliterative bronchiolitis.We demonstrated application of a bioinformatics method, the PheWAS, to screen for the clinical significance of RA-related autoantibodies. Using the PheWAS approach, we identified potentially significant links between variations in the levels of autoantibodies and comorbidities of interest in RA.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.39974
View details for PubMedID 27792870
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5378622
Identification of KRT16 as a target of an autoantibody response in complex regional pain syndrome.
2016; 287: 14-20
Using a mouse model of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), our goal was to identify autoantigens in the skin of the affected limb.A CRPS-like state was induced using the tibia fracture/cast immobilization model. Three weeks after fracture, hindpaw skin was homogenized, run on 2-d gels, and probed by sera from fracture and control mice. Spots of interest were analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy (LC-MS) and the list of targets validated by examining their abundance and subcellular localization. In order to measure the autoantigenicity of selected protein targets, we quantified the binding of IgM in control and fracture mice sera, as well as in control and CRPS human sera, to the recombinant protein.We show unique binding between fracture skin extracts and fracture sera, suggesting the presence of auto-antigens. LC-MS analysis provided us a list of potential targets, some of which were upregulated after fracture (KRT16, eEF1a1, and PRPH), while others showed subcellular-redistribution and increased membrane localization (ANXA2 and ENO3). No changes in protein citrullination or carbamylation were observed. In addition to increased abundance, KRT16 demonstrated autoantigenicity, since sera from both fracture mice and CRPS patients showed increased autoantibody binding to recombinant kRT16 protein.Pursuing autoimmune contributions to CRPS provides a novel approach to understanding the condition and may allow the development of mechanism-based therapies. The identification of autoantibodies against KRT16 as a biomarker in mice and in humans is a critical step towards these goals, and towards redefining CRPS as having an autoimmune etiology.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.expneurol.2016.10.011
View details for PubMedID 27773721
Elevated IgA Plasmablast Levels in Subjects at Risk of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Arthritis & rheumatology
2016; 68 (10): 2372-2383
The disease process in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) starts years before the clinical diagnosis is made, and elevated levels of disease-specific autoantibodies can be detected during this period. Early responses to known or novel autoantigens likely drive the eventual production of pathogenic autoimmunity. Importantly, the presence of disease-specific autoantibodies can identify individuals who are at high risk of developing RA but who do not currently have arthritis. The goal of the current study was to characterize plasmablasts from individuals at risk of developing RA.We investigated antibody-secreting plasmablasts derived from a well-characterized cohort of individuals who were at risk of developing RA, based on RA-related serum autoantibody positivity, as compared to patients with early (<1 year) seropositive RA as well as healthy control subjects. The plasmablast antibody repertoires of at-risk subjects were analyzed using DNA barcode-based methods with paired heavy- and light-chain gene sequencing. Cells were single-cell sorted, the cell- and plate-specific DNA barcodes were sequentially added, and next-generation sequencing was performed.Total plasmablast levels were similar in the antibody-positive (1%) and control (0.4-1.6%) groups. However, increased frequencies of IgA+ versus IgG+ plasmablasts were observed in the antibody-positive group (39% IgA+ and 37% IgG+) as compared to other groups (1-9% IgA+ and 71-87% IgG+). Paired antibody sequences from antibody-positive subjects revealed cross-isotype clonal families and similar sequence characteristics in the IgA and IgG plasmablast repertoires. Antibody-positive individuals also demonstrated elevated serum levels of IgA isotype anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide 3 antibodies.The IgA plasmablast dominance in these antibody-positive individuals suggests that a subset of RA-related autoantibodies may arise from mucosal immune responses and may be involved in early disease pathogenesis in individuals who are at risk of developing RA.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.39771
View details for PubMedID 27273876
CCL19 as a Chemokine Risk Factor for Posttreatment Lyme Disease Syndrome: a Prospective Clinical Cohort Study.
Clinical and vaccine immunology
2016; 23 (9): 757-766
Approximately 10% to 20% of patients optimally treated for early Lyme disease develop persistent symptoms of unknown pathophysiology termed posttreatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). The objective of this study was to investigate associations between PTLDS and immune mediator levels during acute illness and at several time points following treatment. Seventy-six participants with physician-documented erythema migrans and 26 healthy controls with no history of Lyme disease were enrolled. Sixty-four cytokines, chemokines, and inflammatory markers were measured at each visit for a total of 6 visits over 1 year. An operationalized definition of PTLDS incorporating symptoms and functional impact was applied at 6 months and 1 year following treatment completion, and clinical outcome groups were defined as the return-to-health, symptoms-only, and PTLDS groups. Significance analysis of microarrays identified 7 of the 64 immune mediators to be differentially regulated by group. Generalized logit regressions controlling for potential confounders identified posttreatment levels of the T-cell chemokine CCL19 to be independently associated with clinical outcome group. Receiver operating characteristic analysis identified a CCL19 cutoff of >111.67 pg/ml at 1 month following treatment completion to be 82% sensitive and 83% specific for later PTLDS. We speculate that persistently elevated CCL19 levels among participants with PTLDS may reflect ongoing, immune-driven reactions at sites distal to secondary lymphoid tissue. Our findings suggest the relevance of CCL19 both during acute infection and as an immunologic risk factor for PTLDS during the posttreatment phase. Identification of a potential biomarker predictor for PTLDS provides the opportunity to better understand its pathophysiology and to develop early interventions in the context of appropriate and specific clinical information.
View details for DOI 10.1128/CVI.00071-16
View details for PubMedID 27358211
Increased inflammation and disease activity among current cigarette smokers with rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional analysis of US veterans.
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for RA and has been associated with increased disease severity and lower rates of disease remission. We hypothesized that inflammation and disease activity would be associated with smoking status and this would be related to levels of ACPA.RA patients from the Veterans Affairs RA registry were studied (n = 1466): 76.9% anti-CCP2 positive, 89% male, median age 63 years (interquartile range 57-72), median disease duration 8.45 years (interquartile range 2.8-18). Baseline serum samples were evaluated for levels of anti-CCP2, RF, 19 distinct ACPAs and 17 cytokines. Smoking status at baseline was recorded as current, former or never. The association of smoking status with cytokines, autoantibodies and disease activity (DAS28) was evaluated.Among anti-CCP-positive RA patients, RA-associated cytokines (false-discovery rates q < 0.1%) and DAS28 (P < 0.01) were higher in current smokers compared with former or never smokers. DAS28 and cytokine levels were similar between former and never smokers. In contrast, ACPA concentrations were higher among both current and former smokers compared with never smokers, and levels of ACPA were not associated with DAS28 or cytokine levels.Among anti-CCP2-positive RA patients, current smoking status is associated with elevations in pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased RA disease activity. Similar levels of inflammation and disease activity among former and never smokers suggests that the detrimental effects of smoking could be ameliorated through tobacco cessation. The effect of tobacco cessation on RA disease activity should be evaluated prospectively.
View details for PubMedID 27477806
B cell depletion with rituximab in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Multiplex bead array reveals the kinetics of IgG and IgA antibodies to citrullinated antigens
JOURNAL OF AUTOIMMUNITY
2016; 70: 22-30
The serology of patients with Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by persistently raised levels of autoantibodies: Rheumatoid Factors (RhF) against Fc of IgG, and to citrullinated (Cit) protein/peptide sequences: ACPA, recognizing multiple Cit-sequences. B cell depletion therapy based on rituximab delivers good clinical responses in RA patients, particularly in the seropositive group, with responses sometimes lasting beyond the phase of B cell reconstitution. In general, ACPA levels fall following rituximab, but fluctuations with respect to predicting relapse have proved disappointing. In order to identify possible immunodominant specificities within either IgG- or IgA-ACPA we used a Multiplex bead-based array consisting of 30 Cit-peptides/proteins and 22 corresponding native sequences. The kinetics of the serum ACPA response to individual specificities was measured at key points (Baseline, B cell depletion phase, Relapse) within an initial cycle of rituximab therapy in 16 consecutive patients with severe, active RA. All had achieved significant decreases in Disease Activity Scores-28 and maintained B cell depletion in the peripheral blood (<5 CD19+cells/μl) for at least 3 months. At Baseline, mean fluorescence intensity shown by individual IgG- and IgA-ACPA were strongly correlated (R(2) = 0.75; p < 0.0001) but IgA-ACPA were approximately 10-fold lower. Data were Z-normalised in order to compare serial results and antibody classes. At Baseline, a total of 68 IgG- and 51 IgA-ACPA had Z-scores ≥ 1 (above population mean) were identified, with at least one Cit-antigen identified in each serum. ACPA to individual specificities subsequently fluctuated with 3 different patterns. Most 51/68 (75%) IgG- and 48/51 IgA-ACPA (94%) fell between Baseline and Depletion, of which 57% IgG- and 65% IgA-ACPA rebounded pre-Relapse. Interestingly, 17/68 IgG-ACPA (25%) and some IgA-ACPA (3/51; 6%) transiently increased from Baseline, subsequently falling pre-Relapse. Individual responses to particular Cit-epitopes were not linked to particular patterns of fluctuation, but IgG- and IgA-ACPA to individual Cit-antigens often followed similar courses. Some new IgG- and IgA-ACPA, generally to different Cit-antigens however, arose at Relapse in 4 patients. The complexities of the ACPA response after rituximab may therefore reflect its ability to deplete or modify the function of parent B cell clones, which varies between patients. Although relapse following rituximab invariably follows naïve B cell exit from the bone marrow, these studies show that interactions between both 'new' and residual autoreactive memory B cells may be key to resumption of symptoms. The lack of identification of any immunodominant specificity suggests that the process of citrullination, rather than any particular Cit-antigen drives the autoimmune response in RA patients.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jaut.2016.03.010
View details for PubMedID 27055777
Local Joint Inflammation and Histone Citrullination in a Murine Model of the Transition From Preclinical Autoimmunity to Inflammatory Arthritis
ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY
2015; 67 (11): 2877-2887
Anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs) are characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, their presence years before the onset of clinical RA is perplexing. Although multiple putative citrullinated antigens have been identified, no studies have demonstrated the specific capacity of these antigens to initiate inflammatory arthritis. This study was undertaken to recapitulate the transition from preclinical to clinical RA and to demonstrate the capacity of local citrullination to facilitate this transition.We performed proteomic analysis of activated human neutrophils to identify citrullinated proteins, including those targeted as part of the RA immune response. Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we compared RA and osteoarthritis synovial fluid for levels of citrullinated histone H2B and its immune complex. Using macrophage activation assays, we assessed the effect of histone citrullination on immunostimulatory capacity and evaluated the stimulatory capacity of native and citrullinated H2B immune complexes. Finally, we assessed the potential for anti-citrullinated H2B antibodies to mediate arthritis in vivo.We identified robust targeting of neutrophil-derived citrullinated histones by the ACPA immune response. More than 90% of the RA patients had anti-citrullinated H2B antibodies. Histone citrullination increased innate immunostimulatory capacity, and immune complexes containing citrullinated histones activated macrophage cytokine production and propagated neutrophil activation. Finally, we demonstrated that immunization with H2B was arthritogenic, but only in the setting of underlying articular inflammation.Our findings indicate that citrullinated histones, specifically citrullinated H2B, are an antigenic target of the ACPA immune response. Furthermore, local generation of citrullinated antigen during low-grade articular inflammation provides a mechanistic model for the conversion from preclinical autoimmunity to inflammatory arthritis.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.39283
View details for PubMedID 26227989
Identification of anticitrullinated protein antibody reactivities in a subset of anti-CCP-negative rheumatoid arthritis: association with cigarette smoking and HLA-DRB1 'shared epitope' alleles.
Annals of the rheumatic diseases
2015; 74 (3): 579-586
A hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the development of autoantibodies targeting proteins that contain citrulline. Anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs) are currently detected by the commercial cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP) assay, which uses a mix of cyclised citrullinated peptides as an artificial mimic of the true antigen(s). To increase the sensitivity of ACPA detection and dissect ACPA specificities, we developed a multiplex assay that profiles ACPAs by measuring their reactivity to the citrullinated peptides and proteins derived from RA joint tissue.We created a bead-based, citrullinated antigen array to profile ACPAs. This custom array contains 16 citrullinated peptides and proteins detected in RA synovial tissues. We used the array to profile ACPAs in sera from a cohort of patients with RA and other non-inflammatory arthritides, as well as sera from an independent cohort of RA patients for whom data were available on carriage of HLA-DRB1 'shared epitope' (SE) alleles and history of cigarette smoking.Our multiplex assay showed that at least 10% of RA patients who tested negative in the commercial CCP assay possessed ACPAs. Carriage of HLA-DRB1 SE alleles and a history of cigarette smoking were associated with an increase in ACPA reactivity-in anti-CCP(+) RA and in a subset of anti-CCP(-) RA.Our multiplex assay can identify ACPA-positive RA patients missed by the commercial CCP assay, thus enabling greater diagnostic sensitivity. Further, our findings suggest that cigarette smoking and possession of HLA-DRB1 SE alleles contribute to the development of ACPAs in anti-CCP(-) RA.
View details for DOI 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203915
View details for PubMedID 24297382
Barcode-Enabled Sequencing of Plasmablast Antibody Repertoires in Rheumatoid Arthritis
ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY
2014; 66 (10): 2706-2715
A hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the production of autoantibodies, including anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs). Nevertheless, the specific targets of these autoantibodies remain incompletely defined. During an immune response, B cells specific for the inciting antigen(s) are activated and differentiate into plasmablasts, which are released into the blood. We undertook this study to sequence the plasmablast antibody repertoire to define the targets of the active immune response in RA.We developed a novel DNA barcoding method to sequence the cognate heavy- and light-chain pairs of antibodies expressed by individual blood plasmablasts in RA. The method uses a universal 5' adapter that enables full-length sequencing of the antibodies' variable regions and recombinant expression of the paired antibody chains. The sequence data sets were bioinformatically analyzed to generate phylogenetic trees that identify clonal families of antibodies sharing heavy- and light-chain VJ sequences. Representative antibodies were expressed, and their binding properties were characterized using anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide 2 (anti-CCP-2) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and antigen microarrays.We used our sequencing method to generate phylogenetic trees representing the antibody repertoires of peripheral blood plasmablasts from 4 individuals with anti-CCP+ RA, and recombinantly expressed 14 antibodies that were either "singleton" antibodies or representative of clonal antibody families. Anti-CCP-2 ELISA identified 4 ACPAs, and antigen microarray analysis identified ACPAs that differentially targeted epitopes on α-enolase, citrullinated fibrinogen, and citrullinated histone H2B.Our data provide evidence that autoantibodies targeting α-enolase, citrullinated fibrinogen, and citrullinated histone H2B are produced by the ongoing activated B cell response in, and thus may contribute to the pathogenesis of, RA.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.38754
View details for Web of Science ID 000342744300008
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4560105
Peptidylarginine Deiminase 4 Contributes to Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha-Induced Inflammatory Arthritis
ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY
2014; 66 (6): 1482-1491
Peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) is a citrullinating enzyme that has multiple associations with inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, PAD4 and protein citrullination are increased in inflamed joints, and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs) form against citrullinated antigens are formed. ACPA immune complexes can deposit in the joint and induce the production of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), a critical inflammatory cytokine in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Further, in other settings, TNFα has been shown to induce PAD4 activity and modulate antibody formation. We undertook this study to investigate whether TNFα and PAD4 may synergistically exacerbate autoantibody production and inflammatory arthritis.To determine whether TNFα and PAD4 augment autoantibody production and inflammatory arthritis, we first used a multiplex assay to determine whether mice with chronic inflammatory arthritis due to overexpression of TNFα develop autoantibodies against native and citrullinated antigens. With TNF(+) PAD4(+/+) and TNF(+) PAD4(-/-) mice, we then compared serum autoantibody levels by multiplex array, lymphocyte activation by flow cytometry, total serum IgG levels by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, arthritis by clinical and histologic scoring, and systemic inflammation using microfluidic devices.TNFα-overexpressing mice had increased levels of autoantibodies reactive against native and citrullinated antigens. PAD4(-/-) mice with TNFα-induced arthritis had lower levels of autoantibodies reactive against native and citrullinated antigens, decreased T cell activation and total IgG levels, and reduced inflammation and arthritis compared to PAD4(+/+) TNFα-overexpressing mice.PAD4 mediates autoantibody production and inflammatory arthritis downstream of TNFα.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.38393
View details for Web of Science ID 000337366200010
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4148484
Rheumatoid Factor as a Potentiator of Anti-Citrullinated Protein Antibody-Mediated Inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis
ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY
2014; 66 (4): 813-821
The co-occurrence of rheumatoid factor (RF) and anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) positivity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is well described. However, the mechanisms underlying the potential interaction between these 2 distinct autoantibodies have not been well defined. The aim of this study was to evaluate the epidemiologic and molecular interaction of ACPAs and RF and its association with both disease activity and measures of RA-associated inflammation.In a cohort of 1,488 US veterans with RA, measures of disease activity and serum levels of cytokines and multiplex ACPAs were compared between the following groups of patients: double-negative (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide [anti-CCP]-/RF-), anti-CCP+/RF-, anti-CCP-/RF+, or double-positive (anti-CCP+/RF+). Additional studies were performed using an in vitro immune complex (IC) stimulation assay in which macrophages were incubated with ACPA ICs in the presence or absence of monoclonal IgM-RF, and tumor necrosis factor α production measured as a readout of macrophage activation.Compared with the double-negative subgroup (as well as each single-positive subgroup), the double-positive subgroup exhibited higher disease activity as well as higher levels of C-reactive protein and inflammatory cytokines (all P < 0.001). In vitro stimulation of macrophages by ACPA ICs increased cytokine production, and the addition of monoclonal IgM-RF significantly increased macrophage tumor necrosis factor α production (P = 0.003 versus ACPA ICs alone).The combined presence of ACPAs and IgM-RF mediates increased proinflammatory cytokine production in vitro and is associated with increased systemic inflammation and disease activity in RA. Our data suggest that IgM-RF enhances the capacity of ACPA ICs to stimulate macrophage cytokine production, thereby providing a mechanistic link by which RF enhances the pathogenicity of ACPA ICs in RA.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.38307
View details for PubMedID 24757134
Serum inflammatory mediators as markers of human lyme disease activity.
2014; 9 (4)
Chemokines and cytokines are key signaling molecules that orchestrate the trafficking of immune cells, direct them to sites of tissue injury and inflammation and modulate their states of activation and effector cell function. We have measured, using a multiplex-based approach, the levels of 58 immune mediators and 7 acute phase markers in sera derived from of a cohort of patients diagnosed with acute Lyme disease and matched controls. This analysis identified a cytokine signature associated with the early stages of infection and allowed us to identify two subsets (mediator-high and mediator-low) of acute Lyme patients with distinct cytokine signatures that also differed significantly (p<0.0005) in symptom presentation. In particular, the T cell chemokines CXCL9 (MIG), CXCL10 (IP-10) and CCL19 (MIP3B) were coordinately increased in the mediator-high group and levels of these chemokines could be associated with seroconversion status and elevated liver function tests (p = 0.027 and p = 0.021 respectively). There was also upregulation of acute phase proteins including CRP and serum amyloid A. Consistent with the role of CXCL9/CXCL10 in attracting immune cells to the site of infection, CXCR3+ CD4 T cells are reduced in the blood of early acute Lyme disease (p = 0.01) and the decrease correlates with chemokine levels (p = 0.0375). The levels of CXCL9/10 did not relate to the size or number of skin lesions but elevated levels of serum CXCL9/CXCL10 were associated with elevated liver enzymes levels. Collectively these results indicate that the levels of serum chemokines and the levels of expression of their respective chemokine receptors on T cell subsets may prove to be informative biomarkers for Lyme disease and related to specific disease manifestations.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0093243
View details for PubMedID 24740099
Brief report: citrullination within the atherosclerotic plaque: a potential target for the anti-citrullinated protein antibody response in rheumatoid arthritis.
Arthritis and rheumatism
2013; 65 (7): 1719-1724
BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, an observation not explained by traditional cardiac risk factors and generally limited to those with RA-associated autoantibodies such as rheumatoid factor and anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA). We hypothesized that citrullinated proteins within the atherosclerotic plaque can be targeted by ACPA, forming stimulatory immune complexes which propagate the progression of atherosclerosis. METHODS AND RESULTS: Protein lysates prepared from atherosclerotic segments of human aorta were investigated for the presence of citrulline-modified proteins and specifically citrullinated fibrinogen (cFb) by immunoprecipitation and/or immunoblotting followed by mass spectrometry. Immunohistochemistry was performed in coronary artery plaques for the presence of citrullinated proteins and the PAD4 enzyme. Serum levels of anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (CCP), anti-citrullinated vimentin (cVim), and anti-cFb antibodies were measured in 134 women with seropositive RA previously characterized for the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis by electron beam CT scan (EBCT). Western analysis of atherosclerotic plaque lysates demonstrated several citrullinated proteins and the presence of cFb was confirmed by immunoprecipitation, and mass spectrometry. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated co-localization of citrullinated proteins and the PAD4 enzyme within the coronary artery plaque. In age-adjusted regression models, antibodies targeting cFb and cit-vimentin, but not CCP2, were associated with an increased aortic plaque burden. CONCLUSION: Citrullinated proteins are prevalent within the atherosclerotic plaque, and certain ACPAs are associated with atherosclerotic burden. These observations suggest that targeting of citrullinated epitopes, specifically cFb, within the atherosclerotic plaque could provide a mechanism for accelerated atherosclerosis observed in patients with RA. © 2013 American College of Rheumatology.
View details for DOI 10.1002/art.37961
View details for PubMedID 23553485
Multiple cytokines and chemokines are associated with rheumatoid arthritis-related autoimmunity in first-degree relatives without rheumatoid arthritis: Studies of the Aetiology of Rheumatoid Arthritis (SERA)
ANNALS OF THE RHEUMATIC DISEASES
2013; 72 (6): 901-907
We investigated whether rheumatoid arthritis (RA)-related autoantibodies were associated with systemic inflammation in a prospective cohort of first-degree relatives (FDRs) of RA probands, a population without RA but at increased risk for its future development.We studied 44 autoantibody positive FDRs, of whom 29 were rheumatoid factor (RF) positive, 25 were positive for the high risk autoantibody profile (HRP), that is, positive for anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide and/or for at least two RF IgM, IgG or IgA isotypes, and nine FDRs who were positive for both; and 62 FDRs who were never autoantibody positive. Twenty-five cytokines/chemokines were measured using a bead-based assay in serum. As a comprehensive measure of inflammation, we calculated a Cytokine Score by summing all cytokine/chemokine levels, weighted by their regression coefficients for RA-autoantibody association. We compared C-reactive protein, individual cytokines/chemokines and Cytokine Score to the outcomes: positivity for RF and for the HRP using logistic regression.Adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity and ever smoking, the Cytokine Score and levels of IL-6 and IL-9 were associated with both RF and HRP. IL-2, granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and interferon (IFN)-γ were associated with HRP only. Associations between the Cytokine Score and RF and HRP positivity were replicated in an independent military personnel cohort.In first-degree relatives of patients with RA, RA-related autoimmunity is associated with inflammation, as evidenced by associations with multiple cytokines and chemokines.
View details for DOI 10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-201505
View details for Web of Science ID 000318907100024
View details for PubMedID 22915618
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3726193
Autoantibody Epitope Spreading in the Pre-Clinical Phase Predicts Progression to Rheumatoid Arthritis
2012; 7 (5)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a prototypical autoimmune arthritis affecting nearly 1% of the world population and is a significant cause of worldwide disability. Though prior studies have demonstrated the appearance of RA-related autoantibodies years before the onset of clinical RA, the pattern of immunologic events preceding the development of RA remains unclear. To characterize the evolution of the autoantibody response in the preclinical phase of RA, we used a novel multiplex autoantigen array to evaluate development of the anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) and to determine if epitope spread correlates with rise in serum cytokines and imminent onset of clinical RA. To do so, we utilized a cohort of 81 patients with clinical RA for whom stored serum was available from 1-12 years prior to disease onset. We evaluated the accumulation of ACPA subtypes over time and correlated this accumulation with elevations in serum cytokines. We then used logistic regression to identify a profile of biomarkers which predicts the imminent onset of clinical RA (defined as within 2 years of testing). We observed a time-dependent expansion of ACPA specificity with the number of ACPA subtypes. At the earliest timepoints, we found autoantibodies targeting several innate immune ligands including citrullinated histones, fibrinogen, and biglycan, thus providing insights into the earliest autoantigen targets and potential mechanisms underlying the onset and development of autoimmunity in RA. Additionally, expansion of the ACPA response strongly predicted elevations in many inflammatory cytokines including TNF-α, IL-6, IL-12p70, and IFN-γ. Thus, we observe that the preclinical phase of RA is characterized by an accumulation of multiple autoantibody specificities reflecting the process of epitope spread. Epitope expansion is closely correlated with the appearance of preclinical inflammation, and we identify a biomarker profile including autoantibodies and cytokines which predicts the imminent onset of clinical arthritis.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0035296
View details for PubMedID 22662108
Plasma proteins present in osteoarthritic synovial fluid can stimulate cytokine production via Toll-like receptor 4
ARTHRITIS RESEARCH & THERAPY
2012; 14 (1)
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease characterized by cartilage breakdown in the synovial joints. The presence of low-grade inflammation in OA joints is receiving increasing attention, with synovitis shown to be present even in the early stages of the disease. How the synovial inflammation arises is unclear, but proteins in the synovial fluid of affected joints could conceivably contribute. We therefore surveyed the proteins present in OA synovial fluid and assessed their immunostimulatory properties.We used mass spectrometry to survey the proteins present in the synovial fluid of patients with knee OA. We used a multiplex bead-based immunoassay to measure levels of inflammatory cytokines in serum and synovial fluid from patients with knee OA and from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as well as in sera from healthy individuals. Significant differences in cytokine levels between groups were determined by significance analysis of microarrays, and relations were determined by unsupervised hierarchic clustering. To assess the immunostimulatory properties of a subset of the identified proteins, we tested the proteins' ability to induce the production of inflammatory cytokines by macrophages. For proteins found to be stimulatory, the macrophage stimulation assays were repeated by using Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-deficient macrophages.We identified 108 proteins in OA synovial fluid, including plasma proteins, serine protease inhibitors, proteins indicative of cartilage turnover, and proteins involved in inflammation and immunity. Multiplex cytokine analysis revealed that levels of several inflammatory cytokines were significantly higher in OA sera than in normal sera, and levels of inflammatory cytokines in synovial fluid and serum were, as expected, higher in RA samples than in OA samples. As much as 36% of the proteins identified in OA synovial fluid were plasma proteins. Testing a subset of these plasma proteins in macrophage stimulation assays, we found that Gc-globulin, α1-microglobulin, and α2-macroglobulin can signal via TLR4 to induce macrophage production of inflammatory cytokines implicated in OA.Our findings suggest that plasma proteins present in OA synovial fluid, whether through exudation from plasma or production by synovial tissues, could contribute to low-grade inflammation in OA by functioning as so-called damage-associated molecular patterns in the synovial joint.
View details for DOI 10.1186/ar3555
View details for Web of Science ID 000304698800021
View details for PubMedID 22225630
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3392793