The HLA-B*35 allele modulates ER stress, inflammation and proliferation in PBMCs from Limited Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis patients

Stefania Lenna, Shervin Assassi, G. Alessandra Farina, Julio C. Mantero, Raffaella Scorza, Robert Lafyatis, Harrison W. Farber, Maria Trojanowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: HLA-B*35 is associated with increased risk of developing pulmonary hypertension in SSc patients. We previously reported that HLA-B*35 induces endothelial cell dysfunction via activation of ER stress/UPR and upregulation of the inflammatory response. Because PBMCs from lcSSc-PAH patients are also characterized by activation of ER stress/UPR and inflammation, the goal of this study was to assess whether the presence of HLA-B*35 contributes to those characteristics. Methods: PBMCs were purified from healthy controls (n = 49 HC) and lcSSc patients, (n = 44 with PAH, n = 53 without PAH). PBMCs from each group were stratified for the presence of HLA-B*35. Global changes in gene expression in response to HLA-B*35, HLA-B*8 or empty lentivirus were investigated by microarray analysis in HC PBMCs. Total RNA was extracted and qPCR was performed to measure gene expression. Results: ER stress markers, in particular the chaperones BiP and DNAJB1 were significantly elevated in PBMC samples carrying the HLA-B*35 allele. IL-6 expression was also significantly increased in HLA-B*35 lcSSc PBMCs and positively correlated with ER stress markers. Likewise, HMGB1 was increased in HLA-B*35-positive lcSSc PBMCs. Global gene expression analysis was used to further probe the role of HLA-B*35. Among genes downregulated by HLA-B*35 lentivirus were genes related to complement (C1QB, C1QC), cell cycle (CDNK1A) and apoptosis (Bax, Gadd45). Interestingly, complement genes (C1QC and C1QB) showed elevated expression in lcSSc without PAH, but were expressed at the low levels in lcSSc-PAH. The presence of HLA-B*35 correlated with the decreased expression of the complement genes. Furthermore, HLA-B*35 correlated with decreased expression of cyclin inhibitors (p21, p57) and pro-apoptotic genes (Bax, Gadd45) in lcSSc B35 subjects. FYN, a tyrosine kinase involved in proliferation of immune cells, was among the genes that were positively regulated by HLA-B*35. HLA-B*35 correlated with increased levels of FYN in lcSSc PBMCs. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that HLA-B*35 contributes to the dysregulated expression of selected ER stress, inflammation and proliferation related genes in lcSSc patient PBMCs, as well as healthy individuals, thus supporting a pathogenic role of HLA-B*35 in the development of PAH in SSc patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number363
JournalArthritis Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 16 2015


  • ER stress
  • HLA-B*35
  • Inflammation
  • PBMCs
  • Proliferation
  • Scleroderma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy

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