Mapping similarities in mTOR pathway perturbations in mouse lupus nephritis models and human lupus nephritis

Reddy PS, Legault HM, Sypek JP, Collins MJ, Goad E, Goldman SJ, Liu W, Murray S, Dorner AJ, O'Toole M.

Arthritis Res Ther. 2008; 10(6):R127

PMID: 18980674


INTRODUCTION: Treatment with sirolimus, a mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor, has been shown to be efficacious in the MRL/lpr and NZB x NZW F1 mouse models of lupus nephritis, indicating a critical role for the mTOR pathway in both models. This type of demonstration of efficacy in animal models is usually a pre-requisite for advancement into clinical development. However, efficacy in an animal model often has not translated to the desired activity in the clinic. Therefore, a more profound understanding of the mechanistic similarities and differences between various animal models and human diseases is highly desirable.

METHODS: Transcriptional profiling was performed on kidneys from mice with lupus nephritis; from mice who had efficacious drug treatment; and from mice before they developed nephritis. Analysis of variance with false discovery rate adjusted to p < 0.05 and an average fold change of two or more was used to identify transcripts significantly associated with disease and response to therapy. Pathway analyses (using various bioinformatics tools) were carried out to understand the basis for drug efficacy in the mouse model. The relevance in human lupus of the pathways identified in the mouse model was explored using information from several databases derived from the published literature.

RESULTS: We identified a set of nephritis-associated genes in mouse kidney. Expression of the majority of these returned to asymptomatic levels on sirolimus treatment, confirming the correlation between expression levels and symptoms of nephritis. Network analysis showed that many of these nephritis genes are known to interact with the mTOR pathway. This led us to ask what human diseases are linked to the mTOR pathway. We constructed the mTOR pathway interactome consisting of proteins that interact with members of the mTOR pathway and identified a strong association between mTOR pathway genes and genes reported in the literature as being involved in human lupus.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings implicate the mTOR pathway as a critical contributor to human lupus. This broad pathway-based approach to understanding the similarities in, and differences between, animal models and human diseases may have broader utility.