Characterization of the mechanism of action of lanraplenib, a novel spleen tyrosine kinase inhibitor, in models of lupus nephritis

Background: B cells are critical mediators of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis (LN), and antinuclear antibodies can be found in the serum of approximately 98% of patients with SLE. Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) is a nonreceptor tyrosine kinase that mediates signaling from immunoreceptors, including the B cell receptor. Active, phosphorylated SYK has been observed in tissues from patients with SLE or cutaneous lupus erythematosus, and its inhibition is hypothesized to ameliorate disease pathogenesis. We sought to evaluate the efficacy and characterize the mechanism of action of lanraplenib, a selective oral SYK inhibitor, in the New Zealand black/white (NZB/W) murine model of SLE and LN.

Methods: Lanraplenib was evaluated for inhibition of primary human B cell functions in vitro. Furthermore, the effect of SYK inhibition on ameliorating LN-like disease in vivo was determined by treating NZB/W mice with lanraplenib, cyclophosphamide, or a vehicle control. Glomerulopathy and immunoglobulin G (IgG) deposition were quantified in kidneys. The concentration of proinflammatory cytokines was measured in serum. Splenocytes were analyzed by flow cytometry for B cell maturation and T cell memory maturation, and the presence of T follicular helper and dendritic cells.

Results: In human B cells in vitro, lanraplenib inhibited B cell activating factor-mediated survival as well as activation, maturation, and immunoglobulin M production. Treatment of NZB/W mice with lanraplenib improved overall survival, prevented the development of proteinuria, and reduced blood urea nitrogen concentrations. Kidney morphology was significantly preserved by treatment with lanraplenib as measured by glomerular diameter, protein cast severity, interstitial inflammation, vasculitis, and frequency of glomerular crescents; treatment with lanraplenib reduced glomerular IgG deposition. Mice treated with lanraplenib had reduced concentrations of serum proinflammatory cytokines. Lanraplenib blocked disease-driven B cell maturation and T cell memory maturation in the spleen.

Conclusions: Lanraplenib blocked the progression of LN-like disease in NZB/W mice. Human in vitro and murine in vivo data suggest that lanraplenib may be efficacious in preventing disease progression in patients with LN at least in part by inhibiting B cell maturation. These data provide additional rationale for the use of lanraplenib in the treatment of SLE and LN.

Keywords: B-cell receptor; B-cell signaling; Immunohistochemistry; Inflammation; Lupus nephritis; SYK inhibition; Spleen tyrosine kinase; Systemic lupus erythematosus.