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Objective

Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) plays a critical role in B cell development and function. We recently described a selective BTK inhibitor, RN486, that blocks B cell receptor (BCR) and Fcγ receptor signaling and is efficacious in animal models of arthritis. The aim of this study was to examine the potential efficacy of BTK in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), using an NZB × NZW mouse model of spontaneous SLE.

Methods

Mice received RN486 or its vehicle (administered in chow) at a final concentration of 30 mg/kg for 8 weeks, starting at 32 weeks of age.

Results

The administration of RN486 completely stopped disease progression, as determined by histologic and functional analyses of glomerular nephritis. The efficacy was associated with striking inhibition of B cell activation, as demonstrated by a significant reduction in CD69 expression in response to BCR crosslinking. RN486 markedly reduced the secretion of IgG anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) secretion, as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent and enzyme-linked immunospot assays. Flow cytometric analysis demonstrated depletion of CD138highB220low plasma cells in the spleen. RN486 inhibited secretion of IgG anti-dsDNA but not IgM anti-dsDNA, suggesting that pharmacologic blockade of BTK resembles the reported transgenic expression of low levels of endogenous BTK in B cells. In addition, RN486 may also impact the effector function of autoantibodies, as evidenced by a significant reduction in immune complex–mediated activation of human monocytes in vitro and down-regulation of the expression of macrophage-related and interferon-inducible genes in both the kidneys and spleens of treated mice.

Conclusion

Collectively, our data suggest that BTK inhibitors may simultaneously target autoantibody-producing and effector cells in SLE, thus constituting a promising therapeutic alternative for this disease.