Theses Doctoral

Failure to process chromatin on apoptotic microparticles in the absence of deoxyribonuclease 1 like 3 drives the development of systemic lupus erythematosus

Sally, Benjamin Andrew

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoinflammatory disorder driven by the development of autoantibodies to self-nucleic acids, in particular to DNA and to chromatin. Loss-of-function mutations of the secreted deoxyribonuclease DNASE1L3 have been implicated in the development of aggressive familial lupus. In addition, recent genome-wide association studies have linked a hypomorphic variant of DNASE1L3 to sporadic lupus. Studies in the lab determined that Dnase1l3-deficient mice develop rapid autoantibody responses against dsDNA and chromatin, and at older ages this leads to a lupus-like inflammatory disease. These disease manifestations were completely independent of the intracellular DNA sensor STING, which has been implicated in other examples of self-DNA driven autoinflammatory diseases. My project focused on developing assays to track the activity of DNASE1L3, as well as identifying the endogenous source of self-DNA normally processed by DNASE1L3. Using mouse models that allow the depletion of specific cell populations, we found that circulating DNASE1L3 is produced by hematopoietic cells, in particular by CD11c+ dendritic cells and by tissue macrophages. Taking into account the unique properties of DNASE1L3, we discovered that this enzyme is uniquely able to digest chromatin contained within and on the surface of apoptotic microparticles. Loss of DNASE1L3 activity in circulation results in elevated levels of DNA in plasma, in particular within microparticles. Microparticles are extensively bound by anti-chromatin autoantibodies isolated from both murine models of lupus as well as prototypical human clones. In addition, Dnase1l3-deficient mice have high levels of circulating IgG that bind to microparticles from young ages, and these titers increased as disease progressed in aged animals. Pretreatment of microparticles with DNASE1L3 largely abrogated this binding, demonstrating that DNASE1L3 directly reduces the immunogenicity of microparticles. We also studied two human patients with null mutations in DNASE1L3, and observed increased DNA circulating in plasma and, in particular, in their microparticles, demonstrating a conserved role for DNASE1L3 in mice and humans. Finally, we obtained plasma samples from a cohort of patients with sporadic SLE, and found that roughly 80% had circulating IgG that avidly bound microparticles. Roughly half of this group failed to bind to microparticles that had been pretreated with DNASE1L3, and this DNASE1L3-sensitive group also presented with lower levels of DNASE1L3 activity. We conclude that extracellular chromatin associated with microparticles acts as a potential self-antigen capable of causing loss of tolerance to self-DNA and inflammatory disease in both mice and humans. The secretion of a DNA-processing enzyme thus represents a novel, conserved tolerogenic mechanism by which dendritic cells restrict autoimmunity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection
Thesis Advisors
Reizis, Boris
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 6, 2017