“Editing” of Gene Messages May Cause Lupus
Researchers have uncovered evidence that the abnormal “editing” of gene messages in a type of white blood cell may be behind the development of lupus. Scientists hope the finding will lead to earlier diagnosis, a way to monitor patients’ response to therapy and possibly a new way to treat the disease.
The findings, reported online in the journal Immunology, involve an enzyme that “edits” and modifies the messages of genes before the protein-making process. Those protein molecules actually carry out the instructions of our genes and determine how an organism looks, how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection, and even how it behaves.
Senior author Dama Laxminarayana, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., said that in systemic lupus erythematosus, the normal editing process goes awry. This misstep causes a shift in the balance of proteins that results in impaired function of T cells, a type of white blood cell involved in the regulation of immune functions.
The gene-editing process is complicated and took Laxminarayana years to uncover. The current studies demonstrate that, essentially, too much of an enzyme (150-kDa ADAR1) results in an increase in the gene message of phosphodiesterase 8A1, which is involved in the disruption of normal cell signaling and impairing cell function.
Laxminarayana said, “150-kDa ADAR1 is the culprit. We are now working to find a safe way to block it.”
In addition to targeting the enzyme as a treatment strategy, Laxminarayana said 150-kDa ADAR1 could also be used as a biomarker to detect the disease earlier, to monitor how patients respond to therapy, and to measure disease intensity.
This article was adapted from a press release issued by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.