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Giuliana Guggino - Top 30 Publications

Sclerostin and Antisclerostin Antibody Serum Levels Predict the Presence of Axial Spondyloarthritis in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The early diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-associated spondyloarthritis (SpA/IBD) in patients affected by IBD represents a major topic in clinical practice; in particular, to date there are no available serum biomarkers revealing the presence of joint inflammation in these patients. Sclerostin (SOST), an antagonist of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, and antisclerostin-immunoglobulin G (anti-SOST-IgG) have been recently studied in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) as a putative marker of disease activity.

HLA-C1 ligands are associated with increased susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus.

Recently, the role of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) in autoimmune diseases has received increasing attention. The present study was undertaken to determine the association of KIR genes and the human leukocytes antigen (HLA) ligands with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and accompanying oxidative stress. Presence or absence of 17 KIR and 5 HLA loci was performed using the polymerase chain reaction-sequence specific primer (PCR-SSP) method by case-control study. A total of 45 SLE patients, and 60 healthy controls, all of Sicilian descent, were enrolled. Plasma values of the anti-oxidant molecule Taurine were determined in all subjects by capillary electrophoresis UV detection. The carrier frequency of the KIR2DS2 gene was significantly increased in SLE patients compared to healthy controls (73.3 versus 45.0%; OR = 3.36; 95% CI = 1.46-7.74; p = .005) suggesting a role of KIR2DS2 gene in the susceptibility to disease. We also observed a strong positive association between the presence of HLA-C1 ligands group and the disease (82.2% in SLE patients versus 41.7% in controls; OR = 6.47, 95% CI = 2.58-16.26; p < .0001). Stepwise logistic regression analysis supported the effect of the HLA-C1 ligands in SLE patients (OR = 7.06, 95% CI = 0.07-2.19; p = .002), while the KIR genes were no longer significant. Interestingly, we found that SLE patients HLA-C1 positive showed significantly decreased plasma levels of antioxidant activity marker Taurine (69.38 ± 28.49 μmol/L) compared to SLE patients HLA-C1 negative (108.37 ± 86.09 μmol/L) (p = .03). In conclusion, HLA-C1 ligands group was significantly associated with an increased risk of SLE as well as an increased oxidative stress status overall in SLE patients.

The Janus Face of NKT Cell Function in Autoimmunity and Infectious Diseases.

Natural killer T cells (NKT) are a subset of T lymphocytes bridging innate and adaptive immunity. These cells recognize self and microbial glycolipids bound to non-polymorphic and highly conserved CD1d molecules. Three NKT cell subsets, type I, II, and NKT-like expressing different antigen receptors (TCR) were described and TCR activation promotes intracellular events leading to specific functional activities. NKT can exhibit different functions depending on the secretion of soluble molecules and the interaction with other cell types. NKT cells act as regulatory cells in the defense against infections but, on the other hand, their effector functions can be involved in the pathogenesis of several inflammatory disorders due to their exposure to different microbial or self-antigens, respectively. A deep understanding of the biology and functions of type I, II, and NKT-like cells as well as their interplay with cell types acting in innate (neuthrophils, innate lymphoid cells, machrophages, and dendritic cells) and adaptive immunity (CD4⁺,CD8⁺, and double negative T cells) should be important to design potential immunotherapies for infectious and autoimmune diseases.

Advances in immunopathogenesis of macrophage activation syndrome during rheumatic inflammatory diseases: toward new therapeutic targets?

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a severe, hyperinflammatory life-threatening syndrome, generally complicating different rheumatic diseases. Despite the severity of the disease, little is known about the pathogenic mechanisms and, thus, possible targeted therapies in the management of these patients. Areas covered: In this review, we aimed to update the current pathogenic knowledge of MAS, during rheumatic diseases, focusing mainly on immunologic abnormalities and on new possible therapeutic strategies. Expert commentary: The difficult pathogenic scenario of MAS, in which genetic defects, predisposing diseases, and triggers are mixed together with the high mortality rate, make it difficult to manage these patients. Although most efforts have been focused on investigating the disease in children, in recent years, several studies are trying to elucidate the possible pathogenic mechanism in adult MAS patients. In this context, genetic and immunological studies might lead to advances in the knowledge of pathogenic mechanisms and possible new therapeutic targets. In the future, the results of ongoing clinical trials are awaited in order to improve the management and, thus, the survival of these patients.

Prevalence of type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting glucose in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis: Results from a cross-sectional study.

Although the better management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has significantly improved the long-term outcome of affected patients, a significant proportion of these may develop associated comorbidities including cardiometabolic complications. However, it must be pointed out that a comprehensive cardiometabolic evaluation is still poorly integrated into the management of RA patients, due to a limited awareness of the problem, a lack of appropriate clinical studies, and optimal strategies for cardiovascular (CV) risk reduction in RA. In addition, although several studies investigated the possible association between traditional CV risk factors and RA, conflicting results are still available.On this basis, we planned this cross-sectional study, aimed at investigating the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG) in RA patients compared with age- and gender- matched control individuals. Furthermore, we analyzed the role of both traditional and RA-related CV risk factors in predicting T2D and IFG.We observed an increased prevalence of T2D in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that the presence of high blood pressure (HBP), a longer disease duration, and exposure to corticosteroids (CCS) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of being classified as T2D. In addition, we observed an increased prevalence of IFG in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that a higher body mass index (BMI), the presence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), higher levels of total cholesterol, the presence of radiographic damage, and higher serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of presenting IFG.In this cross-sectional study, we observed an increased prevalence of T2D and IFG in an Italian cohort of RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched control individuals. Interestingly, both RA-specific features, such as disease duration, CCS exposure, and radiographic damage, and traditional CV risk factors, such as HBP and MetS, were significantly associated with glucose metabolism abnormalities.

IL-17 polarization of MAIT cells is derived from the activation of two different pathways.

MAIT cells are expanded in salivary glands of patients with Sjogren's syndrome and are IL-17 polarized. IL-7 and IL-23 induce IL-17 production activating two different pathways: IL-7 stimulation induces in fact a significant STAT3 and HIF1alpha upregulation, conversely, IL-23 stimulation significantly induces RORc overexpression in MAIT cells of patients with Sjogren's syndrome.

CD4 T lymphocyte autophagy is upregulated in the salivary glands of primary Sjögren's syndrome patients and correlates with focus score and disease activity.

Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is a common chronic autoimmune disease characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of exocrine glands and peripheral lymphocyte perturbation. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the possible pathogenic implication of autophagy in T lymphocytes in patients with pSS.

Pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance identifies very early cardiac involvement in systemic sclerosis patients of recent onset.

To evaluate occult cardiac involvement in asymptomatic systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients by pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), for a very early identification of patients at higher risk of cardiac-related mortality.

New insights into the pathogenesis of giant cell arteritis.

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an inflammatory chronic disease occurring exclusively in elderly individuals. Until recently, the disease has been considered a unique disease resulting from the interaction in the walls of susceptible arteries, between an unknown infectious agents with local dendritic cells (DCs), activated CD4 T cells and effector macrophages. Recent evidence has shown that this view was too simplistic and has clarified many of the pathogenetic aspects of the disease. Many genetic studies recently published have identified different new genes, including cytokines, adhesion molecules and regulators of innate immunity, as crucial players in the development and progression of GCA. Recent evidence suggests that there is heterogeneity of histological lesions in GCA, that are correlated with different immunological Th9 and Th17 signature. The recent demonstration that Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) antigen is present in the 64% of GCA-negative TAs and in the 73% of GCA-positive TAs could represent an important point of arrival in the search for a causative agent in the pathogenesis of a metameric disease such as GCA. In this context, cytokines such as IL-32 and IL-33 that act as a danger signal following tissue damage and infection are over-expressed in GCA arteries. Artery tertiary lymphoid organs, present in up to 50% of GCA-positive arteries, could represent the sites were primary immune responses and T- and B-cell autoimmune responses against viral antigens are organized. The recently demonstrated disturbed distribution of B cells in GCA could be also relevant in the pathogenesis of the disease, possibly contributing to the enhanced IL-6 response. Altogether, these evidences may clarify many pathogenetic aspect of the disease, also suggesting complexity greater than first imagined.

Dysbiosis and zonulin upregulation alter gut epithelial and vascular barriers in patients with ankylosing spondylitis.

Dysbiosis has been recently demonstrated in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) but its implications in the modulation of intestinal immune responses have never been studied. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of ileal bacteria in modulating local and systemic immune responses in AS.

Interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis: current and future treatment.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) has the highest fatality rate among connective tissue diseases and is characterized by vascular damage, inflammation and fibrosis of the skin and various internal organs. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) frequently complicates SSc and can be a debilitating disorder with a poor prognosis. ILD is the most frequent cause of death in SSc, and the management of SSc-ILD patients is a great challenge. Early detection of pulmonary involvement based on a recent decline of lung function tests and on the extent of lung involvement at high-resolution computed tomography is critical for the best management of these patients. This article summarizes classification, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prognosis, survival and finally current and future treatment options in SSc-ILD.

Brief Report: Functional Interaction of Endoplasmic Reticulum Aminopeptidase 2 and HLA-B27 Activates the Unfolded Protein Response.

The basic mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) remain unresolved. We previously reported an association of the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs2549782 in the endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 2 gene (ERAP2) with AS. It is known that patients homozygous for the G allele (GG) of another ERAP2 SNP, rs2248374, lack expression of ERAP2 (ERAP2 null). The present study utilized this information to study the impact of ERAP2 deficiency on HLA-B27 expression in patients with AS, specifically focusing on the functional interaction of ERAP2 and HLA-B27 in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with AS and assessing the effects in vitro in specific cell lines.

The role of the gastrointestinal tract in the pathogenesis of rheumatic diseases.

Dysregulation of the intestinal epithelial barrier in genetically susceptible individuals may lead to both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune disorders. There is emerging literature on the role of microbiota changes in the pathogenesis of systemic rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathies, and connective tissue diseases. Although the role of the gastrointestinal tract in the pathogenesis of spondyloartropathies is well defined and many studies underline the importance of gastrointestinal inflammation in modulating local and systemic inflammation, the data are inconclusive regarding the effect of dysbiosis on rheumatoid arthritis and connective tissue diseases. This review aims to summarize current data on the role of the gastrointestinal involvement and intestinal microbiota in the pathogenesis of systemic rheumatic disease.

Adult-onset Still's disease: evaluation of prognostic tools and validation of the systemic score by analysis of 100 cases from three centers.

Adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD) is rare inflammatory disease of unknown etiology that usually affects young adults. The more common clinical manifestations are spiking fevers, arthritis, evanescent rash, elevated liver enzymes, lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and serositis. The multi-visceral involvement of the disease and the different complications, such as macrophage activation syndrome, may strongly decrease the life expectancy of AOSD patients.


Endothelial progenitor cells: Are they displaying a function in autoimmune disorders?

Endothelial Progenitor Cells (EPCs) are bone marrow derived cells able to differentiate in mature endothelial cells (EC) contributing to the generation of new vessels, connecting to fibronectin, and forming colonies and/or colony forming units. Since circulating EPCs can be actively considered part of endothelial damage in several cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune disorders the possibility to have a measure for endothelium damage should be considered of interest to predict the patient out-come. At the same time the EPCs proliferative and regenerative role could be considered for therapeutic applications. Studies have been performed to elucidate the role of EPCs in Systemic Sclerosis and many review and articles published on this topic. In the present paper we aimed to review the role of EPCs in other autoimmune disorders.

Prognostic factors of macrophage activation syndrome, at the time of diagnosis, in adult patients affected by autoimmune disease: Analysis of 41 cases collected in 2 rheumatologic centers.

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a rare, life-threatening disease in which early diagnosis and aggressive therapeutic strategy may improve the outcome. Due to its rarity, epidemiologic data are still lacking. Hyperferritinemia is frequently associated with MAS and might modulate the cytokine storm, which is involved in the development of multiple organ failure. In this paper, we investigated clinical data, treatments, and outcome of a homogeneous cohort of 41 adult MAS patients, complicating autoimmune rheumatic diseases. MAS-related death occurred in 17 patients (42.5%) during the follow-up, and older age and increased serum ferritin levels, at the time of diagnosis, were significantly associated with mortality. In conclusion, adult MAS is associated with high mortality rate. Some clinical features at diagnosis may be predictive of MAS-associated death.

Clinical efficacy of α4 integrin block with natalizumab in ankylosing spondylitis.

Predominance of Type 1 Innate Lymphoid Cells in the Rectal Mucosa of Patients With Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity: Reversal After a Wheat-Free Diet.

Non-celiac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) is defined as a reaction to ingested wheat after exclusion of celiac disease and wheat allergy. As its pathogenesis is incompletely understood, we evaluated the inflammatory response in the rectal mucosa of patients with well-defined NCWS.

Perivascular Cells in Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis Overexpress Activated ADAM12 and Are Involved in Myofibroblast Transdifferentiation and Development of Fibrosis.

Microvascular damage is pivotal in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc), preceding fibrosis, and whose trigger is not still fully understood. Perivascular progenitor cells, with profibrotic activity and function, are identified by the expression of the isoform 12 of ADAM (ADAM12) and this molecule may be upregulated by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). The goal of this work was to evaluate whether pericytes in the skin of patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc) expressed ADAM12, suggesting their potential contribution to the fibrotic process, and whether TGF-β might modulate this molecule.

Ectopic expression of CXCL13, BAFF, APRIL and LT-β is associated with artery tertiary lymphoid organs in giant cell arteritis.

To investigate whether artery tertiary lymphoid organs (ATLOs) are present in giant cell arteritis (GCA) and that their formation is associated with the ectopic expression of constitutive lymphoid tissue-homing chemokines.

Non-conventional forms of HLA-B27 are expressed in spondyloarthritis joints and gut tissue.

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B27 (B27) is the strongest genetic factor associated with development of Ankylosing Spondylitis and other spondyloarthropathies (SpA), yet the role it plays in disease pathogenesis remains unclear. We investigated the expression of potentially pathogenic non-conventional heavy chain forms (NC) of B27 in synovial and intestinal tissues obtained from SpA patients. We also determined the presence of NC-B27 in joints, lymphoid and gastrointestinal tissue from B27 transgenic (TG(1)) rats with M.tuberculosis-induced SpA.

IL-1β at the crossroad between rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes: may we kill two birds with one stone?

Although in the past the prevention of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was strongly emphasized, now a great interest is focused on associated comorbidities in these patients. Multiple data suggest that a large percentage of RA patients are affected by Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), whose incidence has reached epidemic levels in recent years, thus increasing the health care costs. A better knowledge about the pathogenesis of these diseases as well as the mechanisms of action of drugs may allow both policy designers and physicians to choose the most effective treatments, thus lowering the costs. This review will focus on the role of Interleukin (IL)-1β in the pathogenesis of both the diseases, the efficacy of IL-1 blocking molecules in controlling these diseases, and will provide information suggesting that targeting IL-1β, in patients affected by both RA and T2D, may be a promising therapeutic choice.

Interleukin-9 Overexpression and Th9 Polarization Characterize the Inflamed Gut, the Synovial Tissue, and the Peripheral Blood of Patients With Psoriatic Arthritis.

To investigate the expression and tissue distribution of Th9-related cytokines in patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

Invariant NKT cells are expanded in peripheral blood but are undetectable in salivary glands of patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome.

Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells play a role in regulating the function of autoreactive B cells before their entry into germinal centres. Absence and/or reduction of iNKT cells have been demonstrated in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) together with an increase of autoreactive B cell activity. Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is a systemic autoimmune disease in which lymphocyte infiltration and organisation in lymphoid structures of inflamed salivary glands occurs. The aim of the study was to investigate the percentage and function of iNKT in the salivary glands and peripheral blood of patients with pSS.

Impact of immunosuppressive drugs on the therapeutic efficacy of ex vivo expanded human regulatory T cells.

Immunosuppressive drugs in clinical transplantation are necessary to inhibit the immune response to donor antigens. Although they are effective in controlling acute rejection, they do not prevent long-term transplant loss from chronic rejection. In addition, immunosuppressive drugs have adverse side effects, including increased rate of infections and malignancies. Adoptive cell therapy with human Tregs represents a promising strategy for the induction of transplantation tolerance. Phase I/II clinical trials in transplanted patients are already underway, involving the infusion of Tregs alongside concurrent immunosuppressive drugs. However, it remains to be determined whether the presence of immunosuppressive drugs negatively impacts Treg function and stability. We tested in vitro and in vivo the effects of tacrolimus, mycophenolate and methylprednisolone (major ISDs used in transplantation) on ex vivo expanded, rapamycin-treated human Tregs. The in vitro results showed that these drugs had no effect on phenotype, function and stability of Tregs, although tacrolimus affected the expression of chemokine receptors and IL-10 production. However, viability and proliferative capacity were reduced in a dose-dependent manner by all the three drugs. The in vivo experiments using a humanized mouse model confirmed the in vitro results. However, treatment of mice with only rapamycin maintained the viability, function and proliferative ability of adoptively transferred Tregs. Taken together, our results suggest that the key functions of ex vivo expanded Tregs are not affected by a concurrent immunosuppressive therapy. However, the choice of the drug combination and their timing and dosing should be considered as an essential component to induce and maintain tolerance by Treg.

Potential involvement of IL-9 and Th9 cells in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.

IL-9 has been shown to be upregulated before the clinical onset of articular disease in RA. The exact role of IL-9 and Th9 cells in RA, however, has not yet been adequately studied. The aim of this study was to evaluate the expression of IL-9 and IL-9-expressing cells in RA patients.

Granzyme A as a potential biomarker of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection and disease.

Cytotoxic molecules such as granulysin, perforin and granzymes produced by cytolytic T cells directly contribute to immune defense against tuberculosis (TB). In search for novel TB biomarkers, we have evaluated the levels of granzyme A in plasma obtained from QuantiFERON-TB Gold In tube (QFT-IT) assays from patients with active TB disease and subjects with latent TB infection (LTBI). Granzyme A serum levels in TB patients were significantly lower than values found in LTBI subjects even after subtraction of the unstimulated levels from the antigen-stimulated responses. The receiver operator characteristics (ROC) curve analysis comparing TB patients and LTBI groups, showed that at a cut-off value of granzyme A of <3.425pg/ml, the sensitivity and the specificity of the assay were 29.41% and 94.74%, respectively. Our results suggest that granzyme A could be considered another biomarker of TB, that can be used, other than IFN-γ, to discriminate between patients with active TB and LTBI subjects in a well characterized cohort of confirmed Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected individuals.

Peripheral frequency of CD4+ CD28- cells in acute ischemic stroke: relationship with stroke subtype and severity markers.

CD4+ CD28- T cells also called CD28 null cells have been reported as increased in the clinical setting of acute coronary syndrome. Only 2 studies previously analyzed peripheral frequency of CD28 null cells in subjects with acute ischemic stroke but, to our knowledge, peripheral frequency of CD28 null cells in each TOAST subtype of ischemic stroke has never been evaluated. We hypothesized that CD4+ cells and, in particular, the CD28 null cell subset could show a different degree of peripheral percentage in subjects with acute ischemic stroke in relation to clinical subtype and severity of ischemic stroke.The aim of our study was to analyze peripheral frequency of CD28 null cells in subjects with acute ischemic stroke in relation to TOAST diagnostic subtype, and to evaluate their relationship with scores of clinical severity of acute ischemic stroke, and their predictive role in the diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke and diagnostic subtypeWe enrolled 98 consecutive subjects admitted to our recruitment wards with a diagnosis of ischemic stroke. As controls we enrolled 66 hospitalized patients without a diagnosis of acute ischemic stroke. Peripheral frequency of CD4+ and CD28 null cells has been evaluated with a FACS Calibur flow cytometer.Subjects with acute ischemic stroke had a significantly higher peripheral frequency of CD4+ cells and CD28 null cells compared to control subjects without acute ischemic stroke. Subjects with cardioembolic stroke had a significantly higher peripheral frequency of CD4+ cells and CD28 null cells compared to subjects with other TOAST subtypes. We observed a significant relationship between CD28 null cells peripheral percentage and Scandinavian Stroke Scale and NIHSS scores. ROC curve analysis showed that CD28 null cell percentage may be useful to differentiate between stroke subtypes.These findings seem suggest a possible role for a T-cell component also in acute ischemic stroke clinical setting showing a different peripheral frequency of CD28 null cells in relation of each TOAST subtype of stroke.

Type 3 innate lymphoid cells producing IL-17 and IL-22 are expanded in the gut, in the peripheral blood, synovial fluid and bone marrow of patients with ankylosing spondylitis.

The aim of the study was to better characterise the immunological origin and the behaviour of interleukin (IL)-23-responsive innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the gut, synovial fluid (SF) and bone marrow (BM) of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).