We showed previously that C57BL/6 congenic mice with an introgressed homozygous 70 cM (125.6 Mb) to 100 cM (179.8 Mb) interval on c1 from the lupus-prone New Zealand Black (NZB) mouse develop high titers of antinuclear Abs and severe glomerulonephritis. Using subcongenic mice, we found that a genetic locus in the 88-96 cM region was associated with altered dendritic cell (DC) function and synergized with T cell functional defects to promote expansion of pathogenic proinflammatory T cell subsets. In this article, we show that the promoter region of the NZB gene encoding the SLAM signaling pathway adapter molecule EWS-activated transcript 2 (EAT-2) is polymorphic, which results in an ∼ 70% reduction in EAT-2 in DC. Silencing of the EAT-2 gene in DC that lacked this polymorphism led to increased production of IL-12 and enhanced differentiation of T cells to a Th1 phenotype in T cell-DC cocultures, reproducing the phenotype observed for DC from congenic mice with the NZB c1 70-100 cM interval. SLAM signaling was shown to inhibit production of IL-12 by CD40L-activated DCs. Consistent with a role for EAT-2 in this inhibition, knockdown of EAT-2 resulted in increased production of IL-12 by CD40-stimulated DC. Assessment of downstream signaling following CD40 cross-linking in the presence or absence of SLAM cross-linking revealed that SLAM coengagement blocked activation of p38 MAPK and JNK signaling pathways in DC, which was reversed in DC with the NZB EAT-2 allele. We conclude that EAT-2 negatively regulates cytokine production in DC downstream of SLAM engagement and that a genetic polymorphism that disturbs this process promotes the development of lupus.
Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.