Introduction: Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitides (AAVs) present with a complex phenotype and are associated with high mortality and multi-organ involvement. We sought to define the transcriptional landscape and molecular endotypes of AAVs and compare it to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: We performed whole blood mRNA sequencing from 30 patients with AAV (granulomatosis with polyangiitis/GPA and microscopic polyangiitis/MPA) combined with functional enrichment and network analysis for aberrant pathways. Key genes and pathways were validated in an independent cohort of 18 AAV patients. Co-expression network and hierarchical clustering analysis, identified molecular endotypes. Multi-level transcriptional overlap analysis to SLE was based on our published data from 142 patients.
Results: We report here that "Pan-vasculitis" signature contained 1,982 differentially expressed genes, enriched in leukocyte differentiation, cytokine signaling, type I and type II IFN signaling and aberrant B-T cell immunity. Active disease was characterized by signatures linked to cell cycle checkpoints and metabolism pathways, whereas ANCA-positive patients exhibited a humoral immunity transcriptional fingerprint. Differential expression analysis of GPA and MPA yielded an IFN-g pathway (in addition to a type I IFN) in the former and aberrant expression of genes related to autophagy and mRNA splicing in the latter. Unsupervised molecular taxonomy analysis revealed four endotypes with neutrophil degranulation, aberrant metabolism and B-cell responses as potential mechanistic drivers. Transcriptional perturbations and molecular heterogeneity were more pronounced in SLE. Molecular analysis and data-driven clustering of AAV uncovered distinct transcriptional pathways that could be exploited for targeted therapy.
Discussion: We conclude that transcriptomic analysis of AAV reveals distinct endotypes and molecular pathways that could be targeted for therapy. The AAV transcriptome is more homogenous and less fragmented compared to the SLE which may account for its superior rates of response to therapy.
Keywords: autoimmune diseases; endotypes of disease; lupus (SLE); transcriptomics (RNA-seq); vasculitis.
Copyright © 2023 Banos, Thomas, Garantziotis, Filia, Malissovas, Pieta, Nikolakis, Panagiotopoulos, Chalkia, Petras, Bertsias, Boumpas and Vassilopoulos.