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OBJECTIVE: Human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-B27 and endoplasmic reticulum aminopeptidase 1 (ERAP1) are strongly associated with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). ERAP1 is a key aminopeptidase in HLA class I presentation and can potentially alter surface expression of HLA-B27 free heavy chains (FHCs). We studied the effects of ERAP1 silencing/inhibition/variations on HLA-B27 FHC expression and Th17 responses in AS. METHODS: Flow cytometry was used to measure surface expression of HLA class I in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with AS carrying different ERAP1 genotypes (rs2287987, rs30187 and rs27044) and in ERAP1-silenced/inhibited/mutated HLA-B27-expressing antigen presenting cells (APCs). ERAP1-silenced/inhibited APCs were cocultured with KIR3DL2CD3ε-reporter cells or AS CD4+ T cells. Th17 responses of AS CD4+ T cells were measured by interleukin (IL)-17A ELISA and Th17 intracellular cytokine staining. FHC cell surface expression and Th17 responses were also measured in AS PBMCs following ERAP1 inhibition. RESULTS: The AS-protective ERAP1 variants, K528R and Q730E, were associated with reduced surface FHC expression by monocytes from patients with AS and HLA-B27-expressing APCs. ERAP1 silencing or inhibition in APCs downregulated HLA-B27 FHC surface expression, reduced IL-2 production by KIR3DL2CD3ε-reporter cells and suppressed the Th17 expansion and IL-17A secretion by AS CD4+ T cells. ERAP1 inhibition of AS PBMCs reduced HLA class I FHC surface expression by monocytes and B cells, and suppressed Th17 expansion. CONCLUSIONS: ERAP1 activity determines surface expression of HLA-B27 FHCs and potentially promotes Th17 responses in AS through binding of HLA-B27 FHCs to KIR3DL2. Our data suggest that ERAP1 inhibition has potential for AS treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Rheum Dis

Publication Date





916 - 923


Ankylosing Spondylitis, Autoimmunity, T Cells, Adult, Aminopeptidases, Antigen-Presenting Cells, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Coculture Techniques, Female, Gene Silencing, Genotype, HLA-B27 Antigen, Humans, Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains, Interleukin-2, Male, Middle Aged, Minor Histocompatibility Antigens, Monocytes, Severity of Illness Index, Spondylitis, Ankylosing, Th17 Cells