Accumulating evidence has showed that anti-CASPR2 autoantibodies occur in a long list of neurological immune disorders including limbic encephalitis (LE). Belonging to the well-known neurexin superfamily, CASPR2 has been suggested to be a central node in the molecular networks controlling neurodevelopment. Distinct from other subfamilies in the neurexin superfamily, the CASPR subfamily features a unique discoidin (Disc) domain. As revealed by our and others' recent studies, CASPR2 Disc domain bears a major epitope for autoantibodies. However, structural information on CASPR2 recognition by autoantibodies has been lacking. Here, we report the crystal structure of human CASPR2 Disc domain at a high resolution of 1.31 angstrom, which is the first atomic-resolution structure of the CASPR subfamily members. The Disc domain adopts a total beta structure and folds into a distorted jellyroll-like barrel with a conserved disulfide-bond interlocking its N- and C-termini. Defined by four loops and located in one end of the barrel, the "loop-tip surface" is totally polar and easily available for protein docking. Based on structure-guided epitope prediction, we generated nine mutants and evaluated their binding to autoantibodies of cerebrospinal fluid from twelve patients with limbic encephalitis. The quadruple mutant G69N/A71S/S77N/D78R impaired CASPR2 binding to autoantibodies from eleven LE patients, which indicates that the loop L1 in the Disc domain bears hot spots for autoantibody interaction. Structural mapping of autoepitopes within human CASPR2 Disc domain sheds light on how autoantibodies could sequester CASPR2 ectodomain and antagonize its functionalities in the pathogenic processes.
The proliferation of T cells in peripheral lymphoid tissues requires T cell receptor (TCR)-mediated cell cycle entry. However, the underlying mechanism regulating cell cycle progression in mature T cells is incompletely understood. Here, we have identified an E3 ubiquitin ligase, CRL4(DCAF2), as a critical mediator controlling M phase exit in activated T cells. DCAF2 expression is induced upon TCR stimulation and its deficiency attenuates T cell expansion. Additionally, DCAF2 T cell-specific knockout mice display impaired peripheral T cell maintenance and reduced severity of various autoimmune diseases. Continuous H4K20me1 modification caused by DCAF2 deficiency inhibits the induction of Aurkb expression, which regulates 26S proteasome activity during G2/M phase. CRL4(DCAF2) deficiency causes M phase arrest through proteasome-dependent mechanisms in peripheral T cells. Our findings establish DCAF2 as a novel target for T cell-mediated autoimmunity or inflammatory diseases.
Immunoglobulin A Nephropathy (IgAN) is the most common glomerulonephritis worldwide. The pathologic hallmark of IgAN is immune complex deposited in glomerular mesangium, which induces inflammation and affects the kidney's normal functions. The exact pathogenesis of IgAN, however, remains obscure. Further, in current clinical practice, the diagnosis relies on needle biopsy of renal tissue. Therefore, a non-invasive method for diagnosis and prognosis surveillance of the disease is highly desirable. To this end, we investigated the T cell receptor beta chain (TCRB) and immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGH) repertoire in circulating lymphocytes and compared them with kidney infiltrating lymphocytes using immune repertoire high throughput sequencing. We found that some features of TCRB and IGH in renal tissues were remarkably different from that in the blood, including decreased repertoire diversity, increased IgA and IgG frequency, and more antigen-experienced B cells. The complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) length of circulating TCRB and IGH in IgAN patients was significantly shorter than that in healthy controls, which is the result of both VDJ rearrangement and clonal selection. The IgA1 frequency in the blood of IgAN patients is significantly higher than that in other Nephropathy (NIgAN) patients and healthy control. Importantly we identified a set of TCRB and IGH clones, which can be used to distinguish IgAN from NIgAN and healthy controls with high accuracy. These results indicated that the TCRB and IGH repertoire can potentially serve as non-invasive biomarkers for the diagnosis of IgAN. The characteristics of the kidney infiltrating and circulating lymphocytes repertoires shed light on IgAN detection, treatment and surveillance.
Background. Autophagy is a ubiquitous and evolutionarily conserved self-rescue process. Studies have shown that autophagy is involved in the pathogenesis of multiple diseases; however, whether autophagy is associated with the pathogenesis of Takayasu's arteritis (TA), a large vessel idiopathic inflammatory disease characterized by vascular fibrosis, remains unclear. Moreover, although IL-6 is believed to be a direct target for TA treatment, anti-IL-6 treatment could not block TA-associated fibrosis in some cases, which impairs the aortic function of patients and can result in death. Thus, identify the mechanisms associated with TA is extremely important. Based on the relationship between autophagy and IL-6, we investigated the role of autophagy in the vascular fibrosis of TA induced by IL-6. Methods: Autophagy proteins (LC3 and Atg3), IL-6, and markers of fibrosis (collagen 1 and alpha-SMA) were detected in tissues with TA lesions via immunochemistry, immunofluorescence, and Western blot, respectively. Different stages of autophagy were analyzed by the specific inhibitors, 3-methyladenosine (early stage), hydroxychloroquine sulfate (late stage), and bafilomycin A1 (late stage). Autophagosomes were detected using electron microscopy and a viral-vector transfection assay. The fibrosis profiles induced by IL-6-dependent autophagy was assessed with an ELISA. Results: The expression of autophagy, IL-6, and fibrosis markers were elevated and correlated with each other in the adventitia tissues of TA patients. Furthermore, exogenous IL-6/IL-6R alpha could significantly increase autophagy and fibrosis in vitro. An autophagy inhibitor was found to significantly block both autophagy and fibrosis induced by IL-6. Finally, IL-6 was found to significantly promote autophagy-induced fibrosis through the activation of the Jak1 pathway. Conclusions: IL-6-induced autophagy plays an important role in vascular fibrosis of TA. Targeting autophagy pathways might represent a novel therapeutic option for the treatment of TA.
Interleukin-21 (IL-21), an autocrine cytokine predominantly produced by follicular helper T (Tfh) and T helper 17 (Th17) cells, has been proven to play an important role in the immune system, for example, by promoting proliferation and the development of Tfh and Th17 cells, balancing helper T cell subsets, inducing B cell generation and differentiation into plasma cells, and enhancing the production of immunoglobulin. These effects are mainly mediated by activation of the JAK/STAT, MAPK and PI3K pathways. Some IL-21 target genes, such as B lymphocyte induced maturation protein-1 (Blimp-1), suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS), CXCR5 and Bcl-6, play important roles in the immune response. Therefore, IL-21 has been linked to autoimmune diseases. Indeed, IL-21 levels are increased in the peripheral blood and tissues of patients with systematic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes (T1D), immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), primary Sjogren's syndrome (pSS), autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and psoriasis. This increased IL-21 even positively associates with Tfh cells, plasma cells, autoantibodies and disease activity in SLE and RA. Additionally, IL-21 has been utilized as a therapeutic target in SLE, RA, T1D and psoriatic mouse models. Profoundly, clinical trials have shown safety and improvement in RA patients. However, tolerance and long-term pharmacodynamics effects with low bioavailability have been found in SLE patients. Therefore, this review aims to summarize the latest progress on IL-21 function and its signaling pathway and discuss the role of IL-21 in the pathogenesis of and therapy for autoimmune diseases, with the hope of providing potential therapeutic and diagnostic strategies for clinical use.
Chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Previous studies have shown that T follicular helper cells (Tfh) contribute to immune pathology in cGVHD, but the function of extrafollicular helper T cells during cGVHD pathogenesis remains largely unknown. In the current study, we identified circulating extrafollicular helper T-like cells (CD44(hi)CD62(lo)PSGL-1(lo)CD4(+), c-extrafollicular Th-like) in human peripheral blood. We performed phenotypic and functional analyses of c-extrafollicular Th-like cells from 80 patients after allo-HSCT to explore the role of these cells in the development of human cGVHD. Patients with active cGVHD had significantly higher frequencies and counts of c-extrafollicular Th-like cells than those of patients without cGVHD. The expansion of c-extrafollicular Th-like cells was more significant in patients with moderate/severe cGVHD than that of patients with mild cGVHD. C-extrafollicular Th-like cells from patients with active cGVHD exhibited increased functional abilities to induce plasmablast differentiation and IgG1 secretion compared to those of patients without cGVHD. Moreover, c-extrafollicular Th-like cell levels were highly correlated with the generation of autoreactive B cells, plasmablasts and IgG1 antibodies. Our studies provide new insights into human cGVHD pathogenesis and identify c-extrafollicular Th-like cells as a key element in the development of human cGVHD.
TREX1 encodes a major cellular DNA exonuclease. Mutations of this gene in human cause cellular accumulation of DNA that triggers autoimmune diseases including Aicardi-Goutieres Syndrome (AGS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We created a lupus mouse model by engineering a D18 N mutation in the Trex1 gene which inactivates the enzyme and has been found in human patients with lupus-like disorders. The Trex1(D18N/D18N) mice exhibited systemic inflammation that consistently recapitulates many characteristics of human AGS and SLE. Importantly, ablation of cGas gene in the Trex1(D18N/D18N) mice rescued the lethality and all detectable pathological phenotypes, including multi-organ inflammation, interferon stimulated gene induction, autoantibody production and aberrant T-cell activation. These results indicate that cGAS is a key mediator in the autoimmune disease associated with defective TREX1 function, providing additional insights into disease pathogenesis and guidance to the development of therapeutics for human systemic autoimmune disorders.
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), imbalanced T cells subsets play a critical role in sustaining chronic inflammatory responses in the synovium. Naive T cells in RA patients undergo maldifferentiation, including an increase in the effector Th1/Th17 lineage and a reduction in regulatory T (Treg) cells. Upon stimulation, naive CD4(+)CD45RO(-) T cells from RA patients exhibited insufficient expression of Foxp3, which induced a deficiency in Tregs production and an imbalance of Treg/Th17 differentiation. Further mechanistic study indicated that RA T cells failed to produce sufficient levels of the histone acetyltransferase Tip60, leading to reduced acetylation of Foxp3; this, in turn, decreased Foxp3 expression, impaired Treg commitment, and promoted Th17 production. Moreover, in human synovium chimeric mice, suppression of Tip60 activity in healthy T cells promoted tissue infiltration and arthritogenesis, while reconstitution of Tip60 in RA T cells suppressed synovitis and effector T cell infiltration. Our findings link T cell maldifferentiation and tissue infiltration with Tip60-mediated Foxp3 acetylation and identify Tip60 as a potential therapeutic target for suppression of tissue inflammation and autoimmunogenesis in RA.
MicroRNA (miR)-125a is highly expressed in T cells and regulates the functions of Treg through the IL-6-STAT3 signaling pathway. However, the role of miR-125a in regulating immune responses in intestinal mucosa of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) is still not understood. Here we showed that miR-125a expression was decreased in PBMC and inflamed intestinal mucosa from IBD patients compared with that in healthy controls. Transduction with LV-miR-125a into IBD CD4(+) T cells could significantly inhibit proinflammatory cytokine production, including IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha and IL-17A. RNA-seq analysis of miR-125a(-/-) CD4(+) T cells revealed enhanced genes (e.g., Stat1, Stat3, ROR gamma t, Irf4, Klf13) in T cell activation and effector pathways, while ETS-1 as its functional target promoted IBD CD4(+) T cell differentiation into Th1 cells. Consistently, miR-125a(-/-) mice developed more severe colitis induced by TNBS compared with WT mice. Thus, our data suggest that miR-125a protects intestinal mucosa from inflammatory injury and that ETS-1 as its target participates in the pathogenesis of IBD.
Store-operated calcium entry (SOCE) modulates cytosolic calcium in multiple cells. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-localized STIM1 and plasma membrane (PM)-localized ORAI1 are two main components of SOCE. STIM1:ORAl1 association requires STIM1 oligomerization, its re-distribution to ER-PM junctions, and puncta formation. However, little is known about the negative regulation of these steps to prevent calcium overload. Here, we identified Tmem178 as a negative modulator of STIM1 puncta formation in myeloid cells. Using site-directed mutagenesis, co-immunoprecipitation assays and FRET imaging, we determined that Tmem178:STIM1 association occurs via their transmembrane motifs. Mutants that increase Tmem178:STIM1 association reduce STIM1 puncta formation, SOCE activation, impair inflammatory cytokine production in macrophages and osteoclastogenesis. Mutants that reduce Tmem178:STIM1 association reverse these effects. Furthermore, exposure to plasma from arthritic patients decreases Tmem178 expression, enhances SOCE activation and cytoplasmic calcium. In conclusion, Tmem178 modulates the rate-limiting step of STIM1 puncta formation and therefore controls SOCE in inflammatory conditions.
Psoriasis is a common, autoimmune, chronic inflammatory skin disease. It has been demonstrated that cutaneous T17 cells play an important pro-inflammatory role in the pathogenesis of psoriasis, through the production of various Th17-related cytokines. Our previous studies have demonstrated that CD30L/CD30 signal plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of CD4(+) Th17 cells and V gamma 6(+) gamma delta T17 cells in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues of mouse. However, its effect on the pathogenesis of psoriasis is unknown. Here, we fully prove that CD30L/CD30 signaling plays a novel protective role in the development of psoriasis in mice, through selective inhibition of CCR6 expression and Th17-related cytokine synthesis in the V delta 4(+) gamma delta T17 cell subset. Meanwhile, treatment with agonistic anti-CD30 mAb had a significant therapeutic effect on our psoriasis mouse model. Therefore, the CD30L/CD30 signaling pathway is an ideal target for antibody therapy, which may become a new approach for the immunobiological treatment of psoriasis.
Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is a classic autoimmune disease in which humoral, cytotoxic, and innate immune responses have been implicated with the specific targeting of a mitochondrial antigen. The mainstay of treatment remains the bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). Corticosteroids may have some benefits, but to date, clinical trials of biologics targeting B cells and IL-12/23 have not shown any efficacy. Because activated T cells target the intrahepatic bile ducts in PBC and pre-clinical models suggested that blocking CD80/CD86 with CTLA-4 Ig might have therapeutic benefit in PBC, we performed an open-label trial to determine if CTLA-4 Ig (abatacept) is safe and potentially efficacious in PBC patients with an incomplete response to UDCA. PBC patients with an alkaline phosphatase (ALP) > 1.67 x the upper limit of normal after 6 months on UDCA treatment or who were intolerant of UDCA received abatacept 125 mg s.q. weekly for 24 weeks. The co-primary endpoint was ALP normalization or a > 40% reduction from baseline. Among 16 subjects enrolled and who received at least 1 dose of abatacept, 1 (6.3%) met the co-primary endpoint. Absolute and percent changes in ALP [median (95% CI)] were +2.8 U/L (-90.9-96.6) and -0.28% (-21.1-15.5), respectively. No significant changes were observed in ALP, ALT, total bilirubin, albumin, immunoglobulins, or liver stiffness. Abatacept treatment decreased several non-terminally differentiated CD4(+) but not CD8(+) T cell populations, including decreases in CD4(+) CCR5 + (p = 0.02) and CD4(+) PD1 + (p = 0.03) lymphocytes. In contrast there were increases in CD4(+) CCR7 + lymphocytes (p = 0.034). Treatment emergent adverse events occurred in 4 subjects. Abatacept was well tolerated in this population of PBC patients but like other biologics in PBC was ineffective in achieving biochemical responses associated with improved clinical outcomes.
NK cells are thought to develop primarily in the bone marrow during adult life. However, increasing evidence shows that NK cell developmental intermediates can be found in different peripheral tissues with unique characteristics. Here, we identified a unique NK cell subset with the CD49a(-)CD49b(-) phenotype in the spleen. These cells displayed an immature phenotype and weak abilities in cytotoxicity and cytokine production. Adoptive transfer experiments revealed that they could develop into mature conventional NK (cNK) cells. Transcriptome analysis further confirmed their immature features. Parabiosis experiments revealed that these cells maintained tissue-resident properties in the spleen. Moreover, T-bet deficiency intrinsically impaired the ability of these cells to develop into mature cNK cells. Thus, our study identified a spleen-resident immature NK cell subset that could undergo extramedullary maturation in a T-bet dependent manner.
The subset of regulatory T (Treg) cells, with its specific transcription Foxp3, is a unique cell type for the maintenance of immune homeostasis by controlling effector T (Teff) cell responses. Although it is common that a defect in Treg cells with Treg/Teff disorder causes autoimmune diseases; however, the precise mechanisms are not thoroughly revealed. Here, we report that miR-34a could attenuate human and murine Foxp3 gene expression via targeting their 3' untranslated regions (3' UTR). The human miR-34a, increased in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and CD4(+) T cells from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, displayed a positive correlation with some serum markers of inflammation including rheumatoid factor (RF), anti-streptolysin antibody (ASO), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) as well as Th17 signature gene ROR gamma t, but inversely correlated with the mRNA expression levels of FOXP3. In addition, murine miR-34a levels were downregulated in TGF-beta-induced Treg cells but upregulated in Th17 cells induced in vitro compared to activated CD4(+) T cells. It has also been demonstrated that elevated miR-34a disrupting Treg/Th17 balance in vivo contributed to the progress of pathogenesis of collagen induced arthritis (CIA) mice. Furthermore, IL-6 and TNF-alpha were responsible for the upregulation of miR-34a and downregulation of Foxp3, which was reverted by the addition of NF-kappa B/p65 inhibitor BAY11-7082, thus indicating that NF-kappa B/p65 inhibited Foxp3 expression in an miR-34a-dependent manner. Finally, IL-6 or TNF-alpha-activated p65 could bind to the miR-34a promotor and enhance its activity, resulting in upregulation of its transcription. Taken together, we show that NF-kappa B activated by inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, ameliorates Foxp3 levels via regulating miR-34a expression, which provides a new mechanistic and therapeutic insight into the ongoing of autoimmune diseases.
Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) play a key role in activating the innate immune system during pathogen recognition. In the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS), activated TLR4 together with myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88) produce an inflammatory microenvironment that promotes the differentiation of microglia into the M1 phenotype, who plays a key role in the pathogenesis of MS. Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK)-M is specifically expressed in microglia in central nervous system (CNS) and act as a negative regulator of TLR4-MyD88 signaling pathway. Moreover, previous studies have shown that IRAK-M promotes the differentiation of type 2 microglia; however, its role in MS has not been explored. In the present study, we demonstrated that IRAK-M expression is elevated during EAE, and IRAK-M-/- mice significantly accelerated course and increased severity of disease, accompanied by a visible increase of the M1 microglia infiltrated. In conclusion, these data indicates that IRAK-M significantly improves EAE onset through down-regulation of the TLR4-MyD88 signaling pathway, which finally leads to differentiation of M2 phenotype in the microglia. Our study suggests that IRAK-M may be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of MS.