Since the discovery of anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (ANCA), great strides have been made in elucidating the etiology and pathogenesis of disease. In this article, we review recent published key breakthroughs in understanding the pathogenesis of ANCA vasculitis, including some that may lead to novel therapeutics. These breakthroughs have occurred in multiple areas of investigation. A European genome-wide association study (GWAS) revealed the importance of the genetic contribution of proteinase 3 (PR3) and its endogenous inhibitor, alpha (1)-antitrypsin as well as HLA risk. Epigenetic modification of autoantigen genes appears to contribute to perpetuation of disease and possibly relapse risk. Autoantigen excision, a novel method to detect autoantibody epitopes using mass spectrometry, not only revealed pathogenic epitopes in myeloperoxidase (MPO)-ANCA vasculitis and identified unique MPO-ANCA responsible for the majority of ANCA-negative small vessel vasculitis, but has vast applicability to other autoantibody-mediated diseases. An explosion of biomarker studies has revealed circulating cytokines and alternative complement pathway products that may predict active disease. Interestingly, alternative complement pathway blockade in the murine model of disease is protective and a clinical trial in humans using an oral alternative complement pathway inhibitor is underway. Increasing clarity of the role of B and T cells in disease pathogenesis is ongoing. B cell depleting agents have shown great utility in remission induction and maintenance, and monitoring specific B cell subsets during the disease course may have predictive power for remission maintenance. Despite these substantial advances, more research is needed including, but not limited to, validation of existing discoveries. As additional novel discoveries emerge, so will novel therapies, and it is with great hope that these collective insights will ultimately lead to prevention and cure.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
the authors wish to thank the patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis and the other scientists and health care providers dedicated to their care at UNC. WFP3 and PHN are supported by grants from the NIDDK ( P01-DK058335-14 and 1UM1-DK100845-01 ). WFP3 was also supported in part by NIDDK grant # 5 F32 DK097891-02 and receives translational research funding from The Broad Institute.
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