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Lymphotoxin-beta receptor blockade reduces CXCL13 in lacrimal glands and improves corneal integrity in the NOD model of Sjögren's syndrome

Roy A Fava12*, Susan M Kennedy1, Sheryl G Wood1, Anne I Bolstad3, Jadwiga Bienkowska4, Adrian Papandile4, John A Kelly12, Clio P Mavragani5, Margaret Gatumu6, Kathrine Skarstein6 and Jeffrey L Browning4

Author Affiliations

1 Immunology Research Department, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 215 North Main Street, White River Junction, VT 05009, USA

2 Department of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School, 1 Rope Ferry Road, Hanover, NH 03755, USA

3 Department of Clinical Dentistry, University of Bergen, Årstadvn. 17, N-5009 Bergen, Norway

4 Department of Immunology, Biogen Idec, 14 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA

5 Department of Experimental Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Athens, M. Asias 75, Goudi, 11527 Athens, Greece

6 The Gade Institute, University of Bergen, P.O. Box 7800, Bergen 5020, Norway

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R182  doi:10.1186/ar3507

Published: 1 November 2011



In Sjögren's syndrome, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) is associated with infiltration of lacrimal glands by leukocytes and consequent losses of tear-fluid production and the integrity of the ocular surface. We investigated the effect of blockade of the lymphotoxin-beta receptor (LTBR) pathway on lacrimal-gland pathology in the NOD mouse model of Sjögren's syndrome.


Male NOD mice were treated for up to ten weeks with an antagonist, LTBR-Ig, or control mouse antibody MOPC-21. Extra-orbital lacrimal glands were analyzed by immunohistochemistry for high endothelial venules (HEV), by Affymetrix gene-array analysis and real-time PCR for differential gene expression, and by ELISA for CXCL13 protein. Leukocytes from lacrimal glands were analyzed by flow-cytometry. Tear-fluid secretion-rates were measured and the integrity of the ocular surface was scored using slit-lamp microscopy and fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) staining. The chemokine CXCL13 was measured by ELISA in sera from Sjögren's syndrome patients (n = 27) and healthy controls (n = 30). Statistical analysis was by the two-tailed, unpaired T-test, or the Mann-Whitney-test for ocular integrity scores.


LTBR blockade for eight weeks reduced B-cell accumulation (approximately 5-fold), eliminated HEV in lacrimal glands, and reduced the entry rate of lymphocytes into lacrimal glands. Affymetrix-chip analysis revealed numerous changes in mRNA expression due to LTBR blockade, including reduction of homeostatic chemokine expression. The reduction of CXCL13, CCL21, CCL19 mRNA and the HEV-associated gene GLYCAM-1 was confirmed by PCR analysis. CXCL13 protein increased with disease progression in lacrimal-gland homogenates, but after LTBR blockade for 8 weeks, CXCL13 was reduced approximately 6-fold to 8.4 pg/mg (+/- 2.7) from 51 pg/mg (+/-5.3) in lacrimal glands of 16 week old control mice. Mice given LTBR blockade exhibited an approximately two-fold greater tear-fluid secretion than control mice (P = 0.001), and had a significantly improved ocular surface integrity score (P = 0.005). The mean CXCL13 concentration in sera from Sjögren's patients (n = 27) was 170 pg/ml, compared to 92.0 pg/ml for sera from (n = 30) healthy controls (P = 0.01).


Blockade of LTBR pathways may have therapeutic potential for treatment of Sjögren's syndrome.

Lymphotoxin-beta; Sjogren's syndrome; chemokine; CXCL13; keratoconjuntivitis sicca; NOD mouse