Whole-genome transcription and DNA methylation analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells identified aberrant gene regulation pathways in systemic lupus erythematosus

Honglin Zhu, Wentao Mi, Hui Luo, Tao Chen, Shengxi Liu, Indu Raman, Xiaoxia Zuo, Quan Zhen Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Background: Recent achievement in genetics and epigenetics has led to the exploration of the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Identification of differentially expressed genes and their regulatory mechanism(s) at whole-genome level will provide a comprehensive understanding of the development of SLE and its devastating complications, lupus nephritis (LN). Methods: We performed whole-genome transcription and DNA methylation analysis in PBMC of 30 SLE patients, including 15 with LN (SLE LN+) and 15 without LN (SLE LN-), and 25 normal controls (NC) using HumanHT-12 Beadchips and Illumina Human Methy450 chips. The serum proinflammatory cytokines were quantified using Bio-plex Human Cytokine 27-plex assay. Differentially expressed genes and differentially methylated CpG were analyzed with GenomeStudio, R, and SAM software. The association between DNA methylation and gene expression were tested. Gene interaction pathways of the differentially expressed genes were analyzed by IPA software. Results: We identified 552 upregulated genes and 550 downregulated genes in PBMC of SLE. Integration of DNA methylation and gene expression profiling showed that 334 upregulated genes were hypomethylated, and 479 downregulated genes were hypermethylated. Pathway analysis on the differential genes in SLE revealed significant enrichment in interferon (IFN) signaling and toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathways. Nine IFN- and seven TLR-related genes were identified and displayed step-wise increase in SLE LN- and SLE LN+. Hypomethylated CpG sites were detected on these genes. The gene expressions for MX1, GPR84, and E2F2 were increased in SLE LN+ as compared to SLE LN- patients. The serum levels of inflammatory cytokines, including IL17A, IP-10, bFGF, TNF-α, IL-6, IL-15, GM-CSF, IL-1RA, IL-5, and IL-12p70, were significantly elevated in SLE compared with NC. The levels of IL-15 and IL1RA correlated with their mRNA expression. The upregulation of IL-15 may be regulated by hypomethylated CpG sites in the promotor region of the gene. Conclusions: Our study has demonstrated that significant number of differential genes in SLE were involved in IFN, TLR signaling pathways, and inflammatory cytokines. The enrichment of differential genes has been associated with aberrant DNA methylation, which may be relevant to the pathogenesis of SLE. Our observations have laid the groundwork for further diagnostic and mechanistic studies of SLE and LN.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 13 2016


  • DNA methylation
  • Lupus nephritis
  • Multiplex cytokine assay
  • Peripheral blood mononuclear cells
  • Systemic lupus erythematous
  • Whole-genome transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Whole-genome transcription and DNA methylation analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells identified aberrant gene regulation pathways in systemic lupus erythematosus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this