The Role of Protein “Rab4” in Behavior and Brain Chemistry in People with Neuropsychiatric Lupus
To understand the fundamental causes of lupus and neuropsychiatric lupus (NPSLE), Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship (Finzi) award winner, Thomas Winans, used genetic tools in an animal study to research proteins. People with NPSLE display elevated levels of two circulating proteins called interferons that are important components of the immune system. He found that overactivation of the protein (Rab4) happens in lupus patients’ immune cells and in lupus prone mice. The Rab4 protein is found just inside the outside of a cell.
Interferons are detected by membrane-spanning interferon receptors called interferon α/β receptors (IFNARs). Using genetic tools created in a lab, he was able to artificially over activate Rab4 and studied the behavior and brain chemistry of mice. The identification of Rab4 overactivation in NPSLE development opens the door for further investigation to understand how the protein regulates receptor recycling, behavior, and chemical processes from the immune system and the brain. A better understanding of the fundamental causes of NPSLE will inevitably lead to improved diagnosis, treatments, and prevention.
Winans plans to continue his research of immune-related disease and how immune system functions are dysregulated in disease. Each year the Finzi award grant program that connects students with leading scientists in the lupus field to advance lupus research and contribute to future therapies, prevention strategies and educational programs. Learn more about Winans and his research efforts.