In a special breeding project with the goal of developing one or more models of autoimmune disease, we are breeding rabbits within our colony for susceptibility to disease induction. The initial focus of our study is a rabbit model of human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). It is known that in man some genes affect susceptibility to several different autoimmune diseases. Thus selective breeding may result in broader susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. SLE is a complex, chronic autoimmune disorder that predominately affects young women. Clinical symptoms may include rash, arthritis, nephritis, and neurological disruption (including cognitive decline, seizures, psychosis). SLE is characterized by the production of autoantibodies to various nuclear antigens and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). We immunized groups of rabbits with an NMDA glutamate receptor-derived peptide on a multiple antigen peptide backbone (BB) based on reports that some anti-DNA antibodies from mice and from lupus patients cross react with the NR2 glutamate receptor, and extending earlier published reports, we also immunized rabbits with an Sm B/B-prime-derived peptide on BB. Immunization with these two different peptide immunogens led to development of anti-dsDNA antibodies, and other correlates of human SLE. Comparisons of preimmune and post-immunization sera suggest that levels of anti-dsDNA and antinuclear antibodies have increased in some MAP-peptide immunized rabbits. Rabbits from both immunization groups with high anti-dsDNA responses were observed to experience seizures. Our studies confirm one earlier report that used Sm peptide immunization to induce SLE-like serology in non-pedigreed rabbits, and extend the studies to a new peptide immunogen (Rai, G. et al. Models of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): Autoimmunity following peptide immunizations of non-inbred pedigreed rabbits-manuscript in preparation).The use of our unique pedigreed colony will expedite understanding the interactions of genetic susceptibility with exposure to defined external immunogens leading to SLE-like manifestations. Current objectives are to continue this work by evaluating tissue pathology; immunization of rabbits related to the first four groups of responders, and breeding and expanding the pool of related rabbits that are responders (in progress).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Intramural Research (Z01)
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Yang, Jiahui; Pospisil, Richard; Mage, Rose G (2009) Expression and localization of rabbit B-cell activating factor (BAFF) and its specific receptor BR3 in cells and tissues of the rabbit immune system. Dev Comp Immunol 33:697-708
Puliyath, Nandakumar; Ray, Satyajit; Milton, Jacqueline et al. (2008) Genetic contributions to the autoantibody profile in a rabbit model of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Vet Immunol Immunopathol 125:251-67
Rai, Geeta; Ray, Satyajit; Shaw, Robyn E et al. (2006) Models of systemic lupus erythematosus: development of autoimmunity following peptide immunizations of noninbred pedigreed rabbits. J Immunol 176:660-7