Antineutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA) causes vascular injury that leads to small-vessel vasculitis. Patients with ANCA aberrantly express neutrophil granule–encoding genes, including 2 that encode autoantigens: proteinase 3 (PR3) and myeloperoxidase (MPO). To uncover a potential transcriptional regulatory mechanism for PR3 and MPO disrupted in patients with ANCA vasculitis, we examined the PR3 and MPO loci in neutrophils from ANCA patients and healthy control individuals for epigenetic modifications associated with gene silencing. We found that levels of the chromatin modification H3K27me3, which is associated with gene silencing, were depleted at PR3 and MPO loci in ANCA patients compared with healthy controls. Interestingly, in both patients and controls, DNA was unmethylated at a CpG island in PR3, whereas in healthy controls, DNA was methylated at a CpG island in MPO. Consistent with decreased levels of H3K27me3, JMJD3, the demethylase specific for H3K27me3, was preferentially expressed in ANCA patients versus healthy controls. In addition, we describe a mechanism for recruiting the H3K27 methyltransferase enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) to PR3 and MPO loci mediated by RUNX3. RUNX3 message was decreased in patients compared with healthy controls, and may also be under epigenetic control. DNA methylation was increased at the RUNX3 promoter in ANCA patients. These data indicate that epigenetic modifications associated with gene silencing are perturbed at ANCA autoantigen–encoding genes, potentially contributing to inappropriate expression of PR3 and MPO in ANCA patients.
Dominic J. Ciavatta, JiaJin Yang, Gloria A. Preston, Anshul K. Badhwar, Hong Xiao, Peter Hewins, Carla M. Nester, William F. Pendergraft III, Terry R. Magnuson, J. Charles Jennette, Ronald J. Falk