Association of differentially expressed genes and autoantibody type in patients with systemic sclerosis

Jun Inamo
Rheumatology 2020 September 10

OBJECTIVES: The aims of this study were to investigate the relationship between the type of autoantibody and gene expression profile in skin lesions from patients with SSc, and to identify specific dysregulated pathways in SSc patients compared with healthy controls.

METHODS: Sixty-one patients with SSc from the Genetics vs Environment in Scleroderma Outcome Study cohort and 36 healthy controls were included in this study. Differentially expressed genes were extracted and functional enrichment and pathway analysis were conducted.

RESULTS: Compared with healthy controls, lists containing 2, 71, 10, 144 and 78 differentially expressed genes were created for patients without specific autoantibody, ACA, anti-U1 RNP antibody (RNP), anti-RNA polymerase III antibody (RNAP) and anti-topoisomerase I antibody (ATA), respectively. While part of the enriched pathways overlapped, distinct pathways were identified except in those patients lacking specific autoantibody. The distinct enriched pathways included 'keratinocyte differentiation' for ACA, 'nuclear factor κB signalling' and 'cellular response to TGF-β stimulus' for RNAP, 'interferon α/β signalling' for RNP, and 'cellular response to stress' for ATA. Cell type signature score analysis revealed that macrophages/monocytes, endothelial cells and fibroblasts were associated with ACA, RNAP, ATA and the severity of the SSc skin lesions.

CONCLUSION: Pathogenic pathways were identified according to the type of autoantibody by leveraging gene expression data of patients and controls from a multicentre cohort. The current study may promote the search for new therapeutic targets for SSc.

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