Sle2c1 is an NZM2410- and NZB-derived lupus susceptibility locus that induces an expansion of the B1a cell compartment. B1a cells have a repertoire enriched for autoreactivity, and an expansion of this B cell subset occurs in several mouse models of lupus. A combination of genetic mapping and candidate gene analysis presents Cdkn2c, a gene encoding for cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p18(INK4c) (p18), as the top candidate gene for inducing the Slec2c1-associated expansion of B1a cells. A novel single nucleotide polymorphism in the NZB allele of the Cdkn2c promoter is associated with a significantly reduced Cdkn2c expression in the splenic B cells and peritoneal cavity B1a cells from Sle2c1-carrying mice, which leads to a defective G1 cell cycle arrest in splenic B cells and increased proliferation of peritoneal cavity B1a cells. As the cell cycle is differentially regulated in B1a and B2 cells, these results suggest that Cdkn2c plays a critical role in B1a cell self-renewal and that its impaired expression leads to an accumulation of these cells with high autoreactive potential.
The development of lupus pathogenesis results from the integration of susceptibility and resistance genes. We have used a chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) model to characterize a suppressive locus at the telomeric end of the NZM2410-derived Sle2 susceptibility locus, which we named Sle2c2. cGVHD is induced normally in Sle2c2-expressing mice, but it is not sustained. The analysis of mixed bone marrow chimeras revealed that cGVHD resistance was eliminated by non-B non-T hematopoietic cells expressing the B6 allele, suggesting that resistance is mediated by this same cell type. Furthermore, Sle2c2 expression was associated with an increased number and activation of the CD11b(+) GR-1(+) subset of granulocytes before and in the early stage of cGVHD induction. We have mapped the Sle2c2 critical interval to a 6-Mb region that contains the Cfs3r gene, which encodes for the G-CSFR, and its NZM2410 allele carries a nonsynonymous mutation. The G-CSFR-G-CSF pathway has been previously implicated in the regulation of GVHD, and our functional data on Sle2c2 suppression suggest a novel regulation of T cell-induced systemic autoimmunity through myeloid-derived suppressor cells. The validation of Csf3r as the causative gene for Sle2c2 and the further characterization of the Sle2c2 MDSCs promise to unveil new mechanisms by which lupus pathogenesis is regulated.
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