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1.  Autoimmune Disease Risk Variant of IFIH1 Is Associated with Increased Sensitivity to IFN-α and Serologic Autoimmunity in Lupus Patients 
Increased IFN-α signaling is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IFN induced with helicase C domain 1 (IFIH1) is a cytoplasmic dsRNA sensor that activates IFN-α pathway signaling. We studied the impact of the autoimmune-disease–associated IFIH1 rs1990760 (A946T) single nucleotide polymorphism upon IFN-α signaling in SLE patients in vivo. We studied 563 SLE patients (278 African-American, 179 European-American, and 106 Hispanic-American). Logistic regression models were used to detect genetic associations with autoantibody traits, and multiple linear regression was used to analyze IFN-α–induced gene expression in PBMCs in the context of serum IFN-α in the same blood sample. We found that the rs1990760 T allele was associated with anti-dsDNA Abs across all of the studied ancestral backgrounds (meta-analysis odds ratio = 1.34, p = 0.026). This allele also was associated with lower serum IFN-α levels in subjects who had anti-dsDNA Abs (p = 0.0026). When we studied simultaneous serum and PBMC samples from SLE patients, we found that the IFIH1 rs1990760 T allele was associated with increased IFN-induced gene expression in PBMCs in response to a given amount of serum IFN-α in anti-dsDNA–positive patients. This effect was independent of the STAT4 genotype, which modulates sensitivity to IFN-α in a similar way. Thus, the IFIH1 rs1990760 Tallele was associated with dsDNA Abs, and in patients with anti-dsDNA Abs this risk allele increased sensitivity to IFN-α signaling. These studies suggest a role for the IFIH1 risk allele in SLE in vivo.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1100857
PMCID: PMC3304466  PMID: 21705624
2.  Constitutive Phosphorylation of Interferon Receptor A-Associated Signaling Proteins in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41414.
Background
Overexpression of type I interferon (IFN-I)-induced genes is a common feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and its experimental models, but the participation of endogenous overproduction of IFN-I on it is not clear. To explore the possibility that abnormally increased IFN-I receptor (IFNAR) signaling could participate in IFN-I-induced gene overexpression of SLE, we examined the phosphorylation status of the IFNAR-associated signaling partners Jak1 and STAT2, and its relation with expression of its physiologic inhibitor SOCS1 and with plasma levels of IFNα and IFN-like activity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from SLE patients with or without disease activity and healthy controls cultured in the presence or in the absence of IFNβ were examined by immunoprecipitation and/or western blotting for expression of the two IFNAR chains, Jak1, Tyk2, and STAT2 and their phosphorylated forms. In SLE but not in healthy control PBMC, Jak1 and STAT2 were constitutively phosphorylated, even in the absence of disease activity (basal pJak1: controls vs. active SLE p<0.0001 and controls vs. inactive SLE p = 0.0006; basal pSTAT2: controls vs. active and inactive SLE p<0.0001). Although SOCS1 protein was slightly but significantly decreased in SLE in the absence or in the presence of IFNβ (p = 0.0096 to p<0.0001), in SOCS1 mRNA levels were markedly decreased (p = 0.036 to p<0.0001). IFNβ induced higher levels of the IFN-I-dependent MxA protein mRNA in SLE than in healthy controls, whereas the opposite was observed for SOCS1. Although there was no relation to increased serum IFNα, active SLE plasma could induce expression of IFN-dependent genes by normal PBMC.
Conclusions/Significance
These findings suggest that in some SLE patients IFN-I dependent gene expression could be the result of a low IFNAR signaling threshold.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041414
PMCID: PMC3408474  PMID: 22859983
3.  Dysfunctional interferon-α production by peripheral plasmacytoid dendritic cells upon Toll-like receptor-9 stimulation in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Background
It is well known that interferon (IFN)-α is important to the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, several reports have indicated that the number of IFN-α producing cells are decreased or that their function is defective in patients with SLE. We studied the function of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) under persistent stimulation of Toll-like receptor (TLR)9 via a TLR9 ligand (CpG ODN2216) or SLE serum.
Methods
The concentrations of IFN-α were determined in serum and culture supernatant of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from SLE patients and healthy controls after stimulation with CpG ODN2216 or SLE serum. The numbers of circulating pDCs were analyzed by fluoresence-activated cell sorting analysis. pDCs were treated with CpG ODN2216 and SLE serum repeatedly, and levels of produced IFN-α were measured. The expression of IFN-α signature genes and inhibitory molecules of TLR signaling were examined in PBMCs from SLE patients and healthy control individuals.
Results
Although there was no significant difference in serum concentration of IFN-α and number of circulating pDCs between SLE patients and healthy control individuals, the IFN-α producing capacity of PBMCs was significantly reduced in SLE patients. Interestingly, the degree which TLR9 ligand-induced IFN-α production in SLE PBMCs was inversely correlated with the SLE serum-induced production of IFN-α in healthy PMBCs. Because repeated stimulation pDCs with TLR9 ligands showed decreased level of IFN-α production, continuous TLR9 stimulation may lead to decreased production of IFN-α in SLE PBMCs. In addition, PBMCs isolated from SLE patients exhibited higher expression of IFN-α signature genes and inhibitory molecules of TLR signaling, indicating that these cells had already undergone IFN-α stimulation and had become desensitized to TLR signaling.
Conclusion
We suggest that the persistent presence of endogenous IFN-α inducing factors induces TLR tolerance in pDCs of SLE patients, leading to impaired production of IFN-α.
doi:10.1186/ar2382
PMCID: PMC2453773  PMID: 18321389
4.  Preferential Binding to Elk-1 by SLE-Associated IL10 Risk Allele Upregulates IL10 Expression 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003870.
Immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) is elevated in sera from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlating with disease activity. The established association of IL10 with SLE and other autoimmune diseases led us to fine map causal variant(s) and to explore underlying mechanisms. We assessed 19 tag SNPs, covering the IL10 gene cluster including IL19, IL20 and IL24, for association with SLE in 15,533 case and control subjects from four ancestries. The previously reported IL10 variant, rs3024505 located at 1 kb downstream of IL10, exhibited the strongest association signal and was confirmed for association with SLE in European American (EA) (P = 2.7×10−8, OR = 1.30), but not in non-EA ancestries. SNP imputation conducted in EA dataset identified three additional SLE-associated SNPs tagged by rs3024505 (rs3122605, rs3024493 and rs3024495 located at 9.2 kb upstream, intron 3 and 4 of IL10, respectively), and SLE-risk alleles of these SNPs were dose-dependently associated with elevated levels of IL10 mRNA in PBMCs and circulating IL-10 protein in SLE patients and controls. Using nuclear extracts of peripheral blood cells from SLE patients for electrophoretic mobility shift assays, we identified specific binding of transcription factor Elk-1 to oligodeoxynucleotides containing the risk (G) allele of rs3122605, suggesting rs3122605 as the most likely causal variant regulating IL10 expression. Elk-1 is known to be activated by phosphorylation and nuclear localization to induce transcription. Of interest, phosphorylated Elk-1 (p-Elk-1) detected only in nuclear extracts of SLE PBMCs appeared to increase with disease activity. Co-expression levels of p-Elk-1 and IL-10 were elevated in SLE T, B cells and monocytes, associated with increased disease activity in SLE B cells, and were best downregulated by ERK inhibitor. Taken together, our data suggest that preferential binding of activated Elk-1 to the IL10 rs3122605-G allele upregulates IL10 expression and confers increased risk for SLE in European Americans.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies, has a strong genetic basis. Variants of the IL10 gene, which encodes cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10) with known function of promoting B cell hyperactivity and autoantibody production, are associated with SLE and other autoimmune diseases, and serum IL-10 levels are elevated in SLE patients correlating with increased disease activity. In this study, to discover SLE-predisposing causal variant(s), we assessed variants within the genomic region containing IL10 and its gene family member IL19, IL20 and IL24 for association with SLE in case and control subjects from diverse ancestries. We identified SLE-associated SNP rs3122605 located at 9.2 kb upstream of IL10 as the most likely causal variant in subjects of European ancestry. The SLE-risk allele of rs3122605 was dose-dependently associated with elevated IL10 expression at both mRNA and protein levels in peripheral blood samples from SLE patients and controls, which could be explained, at least in part, by its preferential binding to Elk-1, a transcription factor activated in B cells during active disease of SLE patients. Elk-1-mediated IL-10 overexpression could be downregulated by inhibiting activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003870
PMCID: PMC3794920  PMID: 24130510
5.  Interferon Regulatory Factors in Human Lupus Pathogenesis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a severe multi-system autoimmune disease which results from both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many lines of investigation support interferon alpha (IFN-α) as a causal agent in human lupus, and high levels of serum IFN-α are a heritable risk factor for SLE. Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a family of transcription factors involved in host defense, which can induce transcription of IFN-α and other immune response genes following activation. In SLE, circulating immune complexes which contain nucleic acid are prevalent. These complexes are recognized by endosomal Toll-like receptors, resulting in activation of downstream IRF proteins. Genetic variants in the IRF5 and IRF7 genes have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and these same variants are associated with increased serum IFN-α in SLE patients. The increase in serum IFN-α related to IRF5 and 7 genotypes is observed only in patients with particular antibody specificities. This suggests that chronic stimulation of the endosomal Toll-like receptors by autoantibody immune complexes is required for IRF SLE-risk variants to cause elevation of circulating IFN-α and subsequent risk of SLE. Recently, genetic variation in the IRF8 gene has been associated with SLE and multiple sclerosis, and studies support an impact of IRF8 genotype on the IFN-α pathway. In summary, the SLE-associated polymorphisms in the IRF family of proteins appear to be gain-of-function variants, and understanding the impact of these variants upon the IFN-α pathway in vivo may guide therapeutic strategies directed at the Toll-like receptor/IRF/IFN-α pathway in SLE.
doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2011.01.006
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
6.  A risk haplotype of STAT4 for systemic lupus erythematosus is over-expressed, correlates with anti-dsDNA and shows additive effects with two risk alleles of IRF5 
Human Molecular Genetics  2008;17(18):2868-2876.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototype autoimmune disease where genes regulated by type I interferon (IFN) are over-expressed and contribute to the disease pathogenesis. Because signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) plays a key role in the type I IFN receptor signaling, we performed a candidate gene study of a comprehensive set of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) in STAT4 in Swedish patients with SLE. We found that 10 out of 53 analyzed SNPs in STAT4 were associated with SLE, with the strongest signal of association (P = 7.1 × 10−8) for two perfectly linked SNPs rs10181656 and rs7582694. The risk alleles of these 10 SNPs form a common risk haplotype for SLE (P = 1.7 × 10−5). According to conditional logistic regression analysis the SNP rs10181656 or rs7582694 accounts for all of the observed association signal. By quantitative analysis of the allelic expression of STAT4 we found that the risk allele of STAT4 was over-expressed in primary human cells of mesenchymal origin, but not in B-cells, and that the risk allele of STAT4 was over-expressed (P = 8.4 × 10−5) in cells carrying the risk haplotype for SLE compared with cells with a non-risk haplotype. The risk allele of the SNP rs7582694 in STAT4 correlated to production of anti-dsDNA (double-stranded DNA) antibodies and displayed a multiplicatively increased, 1.82-fold risk of SLE with two independent risk alleles of the IRF5 (interferon regulatory factor 5) gene.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddn184
PMCID: PMC2525501  PMID: 18579578
7.  MicroRNA-3148 Modulates Allelic Expression of Toll-Like Receptor 7 Variant Associated with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(2):e1003336.
We previously reported that the G allele of rs3853839 at 3′untranslated region (UTR) of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) was associated with elevated transcript expression and increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in 9,274 Eastern Asians [P = 6.5×10−10, odds ratio (OR) (95%CI) = 1.27 (1.17–1.36)]. Here, we conducted trans-ancestral fine-mapping in 13,339 subjects including European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics and confirmed rs3853839 as the only variant within the TLR7-TLR8 region exhibiting consistent and independent association with SLE (Pmeta = 7.5×10−11, OR = 1.24 [1.18–1.34]). The risk G allele was associated with significantly increased levels of TLR7 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and elevated luciferase activity of reporter gene in transfected cells. TLR7 3′UTR sequence bearing the non-risk C allele of rs3853839 matches a predicted binding site of microRNA-3148 (miR-3148), suggesting that this microRNA may regulate TLR7 expression. Indeed, miR-3148 levels were inversely correlated with TLR7 transcript levels in PBMCs from SLE patients and controls (R2 = 0.255, P = 0.001). Overexpression of miR-3148 in HEK-293 cells led to significant dose-dependent decrease in luciferase activity for construct driven by TLR7 3′UTR segment bearing the C allele (P = 0.0003). Compared with the G-allele construct, the C-allele construct showed greater than two-fold reduction of luciferase activity in the presence of miR-3148. Reduced modulation by miR-3148 conferred slower degradation of the risk G-allele containing TLR7 transcripts, resulting in elevated levels of gene products. These data establish rs3853839 of TLR7 as a shared risk variant of SLE in 22,613 subjects of Asian, EA, AA, and Amerindian/Hispanic ancestries (Pmeta = 2.0×10−19, OR = 1.25 [1.20–1.32]), which confers allelic effect on transcript turnover via differential binding to the epigenetic factor miR-3148.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a debilitating autoimmune disease contributed to by excessive innate immune activation involving toll-like receptors (TLRs, particularly TLR7/8/9) and type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathways. TLR7 responds against RNA–containing nuclear antigens and activates IFN-α pathway, playing a pivotal role in the development of SLE. While a genomic duplication of Tlr7 promotes lupus-like disease in the Y-linked autoimmune accelerator (Yaa) murine model, the lack of common copy number variations at TLR7 in humans led us to identify a functional single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs3853839 at 3′ UTR of the TLR7 gene, associated with SLE susceptibility in Eastern Asians. In this study, we fine-mapped the TLR7-TLR8 region and confirmed rs3853839 exhibiting the strongest association with SLE in European Americans, African Americans, and Amerindian/Hispanics. Individuals carrying the risk G allele of rs3853839 exhibited increased TLR7 expression at the both mRNA and protein level and decreased transcript degradation. MicroRNA-3148 (miR-3148) downregulated the expression of non-risk allele (C) containing transcripts preferentially, suggesting a likely mechanism for increased TLR7 levels in risk-allele carriers. This trans-ancestral mapping provides evidence for the global association with SLE risk at rs3853839, which resides in a microRNA–gene regulatory site affecting TLR7 expression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003336
PMCID: PMC3585142  PMID: 23468661
8.  Type I interferon signature is high in lupus and neuromyelitis optica but low in multiple sclerosis 
Objective
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is characterized by selective inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerves but is distinct from multiple sclerosis (MS). Interferon (IFN)-β mitigates disease activity in MS, but is controversial in NMO, with a few reports of disease worsening after IFN-β therapy in this highly active disease. In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), IFNs adversely affect disease activity. This study examines for the first time whether serum IFN-α/β activity and IFN-β-induced responses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (MNC) are abnormally elevated in NMO, as they are in SLE, but contrast to low levels in MS.
Methods
Serum type I IFN-α/β activity was measured by a previously validated bioassay of 3 IFN-stimulated genes (RT-PCR sensitivity, 0.1 U/ml) rather than ELISA, which has lower sensitivity and specificity for measuring serum IFNs. IFN responses in PBMNC were assessed by in vitro IFN-β-induced activation of phospho-tyrosine-STAT1 and phospho-serine-STAT1 transcription factors, and MxA proteins using Western blots.
Results
Serum IFN-α/β activity was highest in SLE patients, followed by healthy subjects and NMO, but was surprisingly low in therapy-naïve MS. In functional assays in vitro, IFN-β-induced high levels of P-S-STAT1 in NMO and SLE, but not in MS and controls. IFN-β-induced MxA protein levels were elevated in NMO and SLE compared to MS.
Conclusions
Serum IFN activity and IFN-β-induced responses in PBMNC are elevated in SLE and NMO patients versus MS. This argues for similarities in pathophysiology between NMO and SLE and provides an explanation for IFN-induced disease worsening in NMO.
doi:10.1016/j.jns.2011.09.032
PMCID: PMC3910514  PMID: 22036215
NMO; MS; SLE; Interferon; STAT1; MxA
9.  Genetic Variation near IRF8 is Associated with Serologic and Cytokine Profiles in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Multiple Sclerosis 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(8):10.1038/gene.2013.42.
Alleles of IRF8 are associated with susceptibility to both systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple sclerosis (MS). While high type I interferon (IFN) is thought to be causal in SLE, type I IFN is used as a therapy in MS. We investigated whether IRF8 alleles were associated with type I IFN levels or serologic profiles in SLE and MS. Alleles which have been previously associated with SLE or MS were genotyped in SLE and MS patients. The MS-associated rs17445836G allele was associated with anti-dsDNA autoantibodies in SLE patients (meta-analysis OR=1.92). The same allele was associated with decreased serum IFN activity in SLE patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies, and with decreased type I IFN-induced gene expression in PBMC from anti-dsDNA negative SLE patients. In secondary progressive MS patients, rs17445836G was associated with decreased serum type I IFN. Rs17445836G was associated with increased IRF8 expression in SLE patient B cells. In summary, IRF8 rs17445836G is associated with human autoimmune disease characterized by low type I IFN levels, and this may have pharmacogenetic relevance as type I IFN is modulated in SLE and MS. The association with autoantibodies and increased IRF8 expression in B cells supports a role for rs17445836G in humoral tolerance.
doi:10.1038/gene.2013.42
PMCID: PMC3856198  PMID: 23965942
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon; autoantibodies; interferon regulatory factors
10.  The type I interferon system in the etiopathogenesis of autoimmune diseases 
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences  2011;116(4):227-237.
Many patients with systemic autoimmune diseases have signs of a continuous production of type I interferon (IFN) and display an increased expression of IFN-α-regulated genes. The reason for the on-going IFN-α synthesis in these patients seems to be an activation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) by immune complexes (ICs), consisting of autoantibodies in combination with DNA or RNA-containing autoantigens. Such interferogenic ICs are internalized via the FcγRIIa expressed on pDCs, reach the endosome, and stimulate Toll-like receptor (TLR)-7 or -9, which subsequently leads to IFN-α gene transcription. Variants of genes involved in both the IFN-α synthesis and response have been linked to an increased risk to develop systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases. Among these autoimmunity risk genes are IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), which is involved in TLR signaling, and the signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) that interacts with the type I IFN receptor. Several other gene variants in the IFN signaling pathway also confer an increased risk to develop an autoimmune disease. The observations that IFN-α therapy can induce autoimmunity and that many autoimmune conditions have an on-going type I IFN production suggest that the type I IFN system has a pivotal role in the etiopathogenesis of these diseases. Possible mechanisms behind the dysregulated type IFNsystem in autoimmune diseases and how the IFN-α produced can contribute to the development of an autoimmune process will be reviewed.
doi:10.3109/03009734.2011.624649
PMCID: PMC3207297  PMID: 22066971
Autoimmune; immune complex; interferon; plasmacytoid dendritic cell; systemic lupus erythematosus
11.  Role of STAT4 polymorphisms in systemic lupus erythematosus in a Japanese population: a case-control association study of the STAT1-STAT4 region 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2008;10(5):R113.
Introduction
Recent studies identified STAT4 (signal transducers and activators of transcription-4) as a susceptibility gene for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). STAT1 is encoded adjacently to STAT4 on 2q32.2-q32.3, upregulated in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from SLE patients, and functionally relevant to SLE. This study was conducted to test whether STAT4 is associated with SLE in a Japanese population also, to identify the risk haplotype, and to examine the potential genetic contribution of STAT1. To accomplish these aims, we carried out a comprehensive association analysis of 52 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) encompassing the STAT1-STAT4 region.
Methods
In the first screening, 52 tag SNPs were selected based on HapMap Phase II JPT (Japanese in Tokyo, Japan) data, and case-control association analysis was carried out on 105 Japanese female patients with SLE and 102 female controls. For associated SNPs, additional cases and controls were genotyped and association was analyzed using 308 SLE patients and 306 controls. Estimation of haplotype frequencies and an association study using the permutation test were performed with Haploview version 4.0 software. Population attributable risk percentage was estimated to compare the epidemiological significance of the risk genotype among populations.
Results
In the first screening, rs7574865, rs11889341, and rs10168266 in STAT4 were most significantly associated (P < 0.01). Significant association was not observed for STAT1. Subsequent association studies of the three SNPs using 308 SLE patients and 306 controls confirmed a strong association of the rs7574865T allele (SLE patients: 46.3%, controls: 33.5%, P = 4.9 × 10-6, odds ratio 1.71) as well as TTT haplotype (rs10168266/rs11889341/rs7574865) (P = 1.5 × 10-6). The association was stronger in subgroups of SLE with nephritis and anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies. Population attributable risk percentage was estimated to be higher in the Japanese population (40.2%) than in Americans of European descent (19.5%).
Conclusions
The same STAT4 risk allele is associated with SLE in Caucasian and Japanese populations. Evidence for a role of STAT1 in genetic susceptibility to SLE was not detected. The contribution of STAT4 for the genetic background of SLE may be greater in the Japanese population than in Americans of European descent.
doi:10.1186/ar2516
PMCID: PMC2592800  PMID: 18803832
12.  STAT2 Mediates Innate Immunity to Dengue Virus in the Absence of STAT1 via the Type I Interferon Receptor 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(2):e1001297.
Dengue virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus, and symptoms of infection range from asymptomatic to the severe dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome (DHF/DSS). High viral loads correlate with disease severity, and both type I & II interferons (IFNs) are crucial for controlling viral replication. We have previously reported that signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 1-deficient mice are resistant to DENV-induced disease, but little is known about this STAT1-independent mechanism of protection. To determine the molecular basis of the STAT1-independent pathway, mice lacking STAT1, STAT2, or both STAT1 and STAT2 were infected with a virulent mouse-adapted strain of DENV2. In the first 72 hours of infection, the single-deficient mice lacking STAT1 or STAT2 possessed 50–100 fold higher levels of viral RNA than wild type mice in the serum, spleen, and other visceral tissues, but remained resistant to DENV-induced death. In contrast, the double-deficient mice exhibited the early death phenotype previously observed in type I and II IFN receptor knockout mice (AG129), indicating that STAT2 is the mediator of the STAT1-independent host defense mechanism. Further studies demonstrated that this STAT2-dependent STAT1-independent mechanism requires the type I IFN receptor, and contributes to the autocrine amplification of type I IFN expression. Examination of gene expression in the spleen and bone marrow-derived macrophages following DENV infection revealed STAT2-dependent pathways can induce the transcription of a subset of interferon stimulated genes even in the absence of STAT1. Collectively, these results help elucidate the nature of the poorly understood STAT1-independent host defense mechanism against viruses by identifying a functional type I IFN/STAT2 signaling pathway following DENV infection in vivo.
Author Summary
Dengue virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne pathogen present in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, and an estimated 2.5 billion people are at risk of infection. Interferon (IFN) mediated innate responses in the host are critical for limiting viral spread following DENV infection. We have previously demonstrated that mice lacking STAT1, a key mediator of both type I and II IFN responses, are not susceptible to DENV-mediated disease. In this study, we sought to determine the mechanism responsible for protection against DENV disease in the absence of STAT1. Using knockout mice, we identify STAT2 as the protein that mediates type I IFN signaling during DENV infection in the absence of STAT1. The resulting antiviral response includes amplification of type I IFN and the expression of interferon stimulated genes. These data suggest DENV infection is especially sensitive to STAT2-mediated antiviral responses in vivo, and provide novel insights towards how IFNs protect against viral infections.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1001297
PMCID: PMC3040673  PMID: 21379341
13.  Type I Interferons Are Associated with Subclinical Markers of Cardiovascular Disease in a Cohort of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37000.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have a striking increase in cardiovascular (CV) comorbidity not fully explained by the Framingham risk score. Recent evidence from in vitro studies suggests that type I interferons (IFN) could promote premature CV disease (CVD) in SLE. We assessed the association of type I IFN signatures with functional and anatomical evidence of vascular damage, and with biomarkers of CV risk in a cohort of lupus patients without overt CVD.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Serum type I IFN activity (induction of five IFN-inducible genes; IFIGs) from 95 SLE patient and 38 controls was quantified by real-time PCR. Flow mediated dilatation (FMD) of the brachial artery and carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) were quantified by ultrasound, and coronary calcification by computed tomography. Serum vascular biomarkers were measured by ELISA. We evaluated the effect of type I IFNs on FMD, CIMT and coronary calcification by first applying principal components analysis to combine data from five IFIGs into summary components that could be simultaneously modeled. Three components were derived explaining 97.1% of the total IFIG variation. Multivariable linear regression was utilized to investigate the association between the three components and other covariates, with the outcomes of FMD and CIMT; zero-inflated Poisson regression was used for modeling of coronary calcification. After controlling for traditional CV risk factors, enhanced serum IFN activity was significantly associated with decreased endothelial function in SLE patients and controls (p<0.05 for component 3), increased CIMT among SLE patients (p<0.01 for components 1 and 2), and severity of coronary calcification among SLE patients (p<0.001 for component 3).
Conclusions
Type I IFNs are independently associated with atherosclerosis development in lupus patients without history of overt CVD and after controlling for Framingham risk factors. This study further supports the hypothesis that type I IFNs promote premature vascular damage in SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037000
PMCID: PMC3351452  PMID: 22606325
14.  Interferon Alpha as a Primary Pathogenic Factor in Human Lupus 
Interferon alpha (IFN-α) is a critical mediator of human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). This review will summarize evidence supporting the role for IFN-α in the initiation of human SLE. IFN-α functions in viral immunity at the interface of innate and adaptive immunity, a position well suited to setting thresholds for autoimmunity. Some individuals treated with IFN-α for chronic viral infections develop de novo SLE, which frequently resolves when IFN-α is withdrawn, supporting the idea that IFN-α was causal. Abnormally high IFN-α levels are clustered within SLE families, suggesting that high serum IFN-α is a heritable risk factor for SLE. Additionally, SLE-risk genetic variants in the IFN-α pathway are gain of function in nature, resulting in either higher circulating IFN-α levels or greater sensitivity to IFN-α signaling in SLE patients. A recent genome-wide association study has identified additional novel genetic loci associated with high serum IFN-α in SLE patients. These data support the idea that genetically determined endogenous elevations in IFN-α predispose to human SLE. It is possible that some of these gain-of-function polymorphisms in the IFN-α pathway are useful in viral defense, and that risk of SLE is a burden we have taken on in the fight to defend ourselves against viral infection.
doi:10.1089/jir.2011.0071
PMCID: PMC3234490  PMID: 21923413
15.  PTPN22 C1858T Polymorphism is Associated with Skewing of Cytokine Profiles Toward High IFN-α Activity and Low TNF-α in Lupus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(9):2818-2823.
Background
The C1858T polymorphism in PTPN22 has been associated with risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as well as multiple other autoimmune diseases. We have previously shown that high serum interferon alpha (IFN-α) activity is a heritable risk factor for SLE, and we hypothesized that the PTPN22 risk variant may shift serum cytokine profiles to higher IFN-α activity resulting in risk of disease.
Methods
IFN-α was measured in 143 SLE patients using a functional reporter cell assay, and TNF-α was measured with ELISA. The rs2476601 SNP in PTPN22 (C1858T) was genotyped in the same patients. Patients were grouped using a clustering algorithm into four cytokine groups (IFN-α predominant, IFN-α and TNF-α correlated, TNF-α predominant, and IFN-α and TNF-α both low).
Results
SLE patients carrying the risk allele of PTPN22 had higher serum IFN-α activity than patients lacking the risk allele (p=0.027). TNF-α levels were lower in risk allele carriers (p=0.030), and the risk allele was more common in patients with an IFN-α predominant or IFN-α and TNF-α correlated cytokine profile as compared to patients with TNF-α predominance or both cytokines low (p=0.002). 25% of male patients carried the risk allele, compared to 10% of female patients (p=0.02), however cytokine skewing was similar in both sexes.
Conclusions
The autoimmune disease risk allele of PTPN22 is associated with skewing of serum cytokine profiles toward higher IFN-α activity and lower TNF-α in SLE patients in vivo. This serum cytokine pattern may be relevant in other autoimmune diseases associated with the PTPN22 risk allele.
doi:10.1002/art.23728
PMCID: PMC2621106  PMID: 18759295
16.  Elevated Serum Levels of Interferon-Regulated Chemokines Are Biomarkers for Active Human Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e491.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a serious systemic autoimmune disorder that affects multiple organ systems and is characterized by unpredictable flares of disease. Recent evidence indicates a role for type I interferon (IFN) in SLE pathogenesis; however, the downstream effects of IFN pathway activation are not well understood. Here we test the hypothesis that type I IFN-regulated proteins are present in the serum of SLE patients and correlate with disease activity.
Methods and Findings
We performed a comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE and identified dysregulated levels of 30 cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and soluble receptors. Particularly striking was the highly coordinated up-regulation of 12 inflammatory and/or homeostatic chemokines, molecules that direct the movement of leukocytes in the body. Most of the identified chemokines were inducible by type I IFN, and their levels correlated strongly with clinical and laboratory measures of disease activity.
Conclusions
These data suggest that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed in human SLE. Furthermore, the levels of serum chemokines may serve as convenient biomarkers for disease activity in lupus.
A comprehensive survey of the serologic proteome in human SLE suggests that severely disrupted chemokine gradients may contribute to the systemic autoimmunity observed.
Editors' Summary
Background.
The term “lupus,” meaning wolf in Latin, is often used as an abbreviation for the disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The name may have been given because some people with SLE have a rash that slightly resembles a wolf's face. The condition affects around 50 to 100 people per 100,000, and is much more common in women than men. SLE is a complicated disease that comes about when antibodies inappropriately attack the body's own connective tissues, although it is not known why this happens. Symptoms vary between different people; the disease may get better and then worse, without explanation; and can affect many different organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, and brain and nervous system. SLE is difficult for doctors to diagnose. Although the disease cannot be cured, patients who are diagnosed with SLE can be treated for their symptoms, and the right management can slow progress of the disease. One area of SLE research focuses on finding “molecular markers” (e.g., proteins or other compounds) that could be tested for in the blood. Researchers hope this would help doctors to more accurately diagnose SLE initially, and then also help to track progress in a patient's condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
“Gene expression” is a term meaning the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into the structures and functions of a cell. These investigators had found in previous studies that certain genes were more “highly expressed” in the blood cells of patients with SLE. Some of these genes were already known to be regulated by interferons (a group of proteins, produced by certain blood cells, that are important in helping to defend against viral infections). The investigators performing this study wanted to understand more clearly the role of interferon in SLE and to see whether the genes that are more highly expressed in patients with SLE go on to produce higher levels of protein, which might then provide useful markers for monitoring the condition.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research project was a “case-control” study, in which the researchers compared the levels of certain proteins in the blood of people who had SLE with the levels in people who did not have the condition. Thirty people were recruited as cases, from a group of patients with SLE who have been under evaluation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine since 1987. Fifteen controls were recruited from a group of healthy people of similar age and sex as the patients with SLE; everyone involved in the study gave their consent to take part. Blood samples were taken from each individual, and the serum (liquid component of blood) was separated out. The serum levels of 160 different blood proteins were then measured. When comparing levels of blood proteins between the groups, the researchers found that 30 specific proteins were present at higher or lower levels in the SLE-affected patients. Many of these proteins are cytokines, which are regulated by interferons and are involved in the process of “signaling” within the immune system. A few proteins were found at lower levels. Levels of the interferon-regulated proteins were, on average, seen at higher levels in people whose condition was more severe.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that patients with SLE are likely to have a very different pattern of regulation of certain proteins within the blood, particularly the proteins involved in signaling within the immune system. The authors propose that these proteins may be involved in the progression of the disease. There is also the possibility that some of these proteins may prove useful in diagnostic tests, or in tests for monitoring how the disease progresses. However, before any such tests could be used in clinical practice, they would need to be further developed and then thoroughly tested in clinical trials.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
Patient information from the UK National Health Service on systemic lupus erythematosus
Patient handout from the US National Institutes of Health
MedlinePLUS encyclopedia entry on lupus
Information on lupus from the UK Arthritis Research Campaign
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030491
PMCID: PMC1702557  PMID: 17177599
17.  Mutually Positive Regulatory Feedback Loop between Interferons and Estrogen Receptor-α in Mice: Implications for Sex Bias in Autoimmunity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10868.
Background
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease, predominantly affects women of childbearing age. Moreover, increased serum levels of interferon-α (IFN-α) are associated with the disease. Although, the female sex hormone estrogen (E2) is implicated in sex bias in SLE through up-regulation of IFN-γ expression, the molecular mechanisms remain unknown. Here we report that activation of IFN (α or γ)-signaling in immune cells up-regulates expression of estrogen receptor-α (ERα; encoded by the Esr1 gene) and stimulates expression of target genes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We found that treatment of mouse splenic cells and mouse cell lines with IFN (α or γ) increased steady-state levels of ERα mRNA and protein. The increase in the ERα mRNA levels was primarily due to the transcriptional mechanisms and it was dependent upon the activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription-1 (STAT1) factor by IFN. Moreover, the IFN-treatment of cells also stimulated transcription of a reporter gene, expression of which was driven by the promoter region of the murine Esr1 gene. Notably, splenic cells from pre-autoimmune lupus-prone (NZB × NZW)F1 female mice had relatively higher steady-state levels of mRNAs encoded by the IFN and ERα-responsive genes as compared to the age-matched males.
Conclusions/Significance
Our observations identify a novel mutually positive regulatory feedback loop between IFNs and ERα in immune cells in mice and support the idea that activation of this regulatory loop contributes to sex bias in SLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010868
PMCID: PMC2878324  PMID: 20526365
18.  Specificity of the STAT4 Genetic Association for Severe Disease Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(5):e1000084.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a genetically complex disease with heterogeneous clinical manifestations. A polymorphism in the STAT4 gene has recently been established as a risk factor for SLE, but the relationship with specific SLE subphenotypes has not been studied. We studied 137 SNPs in the STAT4 region genotyped in 4 independent SLE case series (total n = 1398) and 2560 healthy controls, along with clinical data for the cases. Using conditional testing, we confirmed the most significant STAT4 haplotype for SLE risk. We then studied a SNP marking this haplotype for association with specific SLE subphenotypes, including autoantibody production, nephritis, arthritis, mucocutaneous manifestations, and age at diagnosis. To prevent possible type-I errors from population stratification, we reanalyzed the data using a subset of subjects determined to be most homogeneous based on principal components analysis of genome-wide data. We confirmed that four SNPs in very high LD (r2 = 0.94 to 0.99) were most strongly associated with SLE, and there was no compelling evidence for additional SLE risk loci in the STAT4 region. SNP rs7574865 marking this haplotype had a minor allele frequency (MAF) = 31.1% in SLE cases compared with 22.5% in controls (OR = 1.56, p = 10−16). This SNP was more strongly associated with SLE characterized by double-stranded DNA autoantibodies (MAF = 35.1%, OR = 1.86, p<10−19), nephritis (MAF = 34.3%, OR = 1.80, p<10−11), and age at diagnosis<30 years (MAF = 33.8%, OR = 1.77, p<10−13). An association with severe nephritis was even more striking (MAF = 39.2%, OR = 2.35, p<10−4 in the homogeneous subset of subjects). In contrast, STAT4 was less strongly associated with oral ulcers, a manifestation associated with milder disease. We conclude that this common polymorphism of STAT4 contributes to the phenotypic heterogeneity of SLE, predisposing specifically to more severe disease.
Author Summary
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a chronic disabling autoimmune disease, most commonly striking women in their thirties or forties. It can cause a wide variety of clinical manifestations, including kidney disease, arthritis, and skin disorders. Prognosis varies greatly depending on these clinical features, with kidney disease and related characteristics leading to greater morbidity and mortality. It is also complex genetically; while lupus runs in families, genes increase one’s risk for lupus but do not fully determine the outcome. It is thought that the interactions of multiple genes and/or interactions between genes and environmental factors may cause lupus, but the causes and disease pathways of this very heterogeneous disease are not well understood. By examining relationships between subtypes of lupus and specific genes, we hope to better understand how lupus is triggered and by what biological pathways it progresses. We show in this work that the STAT4 gene, very recently identified as a lupus risk gene, predisposes specifically to severe manifestations of lupus, including kidney disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000084
PMCID: PMC2377340  PMID: 18516230
19.  A Functional Variant in MicroRNA-146a Promoter Modulates Its Expression and Confers Disease Risk for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002128.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease with a strong genetic predisposition, characterized by an upregulated type I interferon pathway. MicroRNAs are important regulators of immune homeostasis, and aberrant microRNA expression has been demonstrated in patients with autoimmune diseases. We recently identified miR-146a as a negative regulator of the interferon pathway and linked the abnormal activation of this pathway to the underexpression of miR-146a in SLE patients. To explore why the expression of miR-146a is reduced in SLE patients, we conducted short parallel sequencing of potentially regulatory regions of miR-146a and identified a novel genetic variant (rs57095329) in the promoter region exhibiting evidence for association with SLE that was replicated independently in 7,182 Asians (Pmeta = 2.74×10−8, odds ratio = 1.29 [1.18–1.40]). The risk-associated G allele was linked to reduced expression of miR-146a in the peripheral blood leukocytes of the controls. Combined functional assays showed that the risk-associated G allele reduced the protein-binding affinity and activity of the promoter compared with those of the promoter containing the protective A allele. Transcription factor Ets-1, encoded by the lupus-susceptibility gene ETS1, identified in recent genome-wide association studies, binds near this variant. The manipulation of Ets-1 levels strongly affected miR-146a promoter activity in vitro; and the knockdown of Ets-1, mimicking its reduced expression in SLE, directly impaired the induction of miR-146a. We also observed additive effects of the risk alleles of miR-146a and ETS1. Our data identified and confirmed an association between a functional promoter variant of miR-146a and SLE. This risk allele had decreased binding to transcription factor Ets-1, contributing to reduced levels of miR-146a in SLE patients.
Author Summary
Genome-wide association studies have identified quite a number of susceptibility loci associated with complex diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, for most of them, the intrinsic link between genetic variation and disease mechanism is not fully understood. SLE is characterized by a significantly upregulated type I interferon (IFN) pathway, and we have previously reported that underexpression of a microRNA, miR-146a, contributes to alterations in the type I IFN pathway in lupus patients. Here we identified a novel genetic variant in the promoter region of miR-146a that is directly related to reduced expression of miR-146a and is associated with SLE susceptibility. The risk allele of this variant confers weaker binding affinity for Ets-1, which is a transcription factor encoded by a lupus susceptibility gene found in recent GWAS. These findings suggest that reduced expression of Ets-1 and its reduced binding affinity to the miR-146a promoter both may contribute to low levels of this microRNA in SLE patients, which may contribute to the upregulated type I IFN pathway in these patients. To our knowledge, this is also the first piece of evidence showing association between a genetic variant in a promoter region of a miRNA gene and a human disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002128
PMCID: PMC3128113  PMID: 21738483
20.  Cell-Specific Type I IFN Signatures in Autoimmunity and Viral Infection: What Makes the Difference? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83776.
Gene expression profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) has revealed a crucial role for type I interferon (IFN) in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). However, it is unclear how particular leucocyte subsets contribute to the overall type I IFN signature of PBMCs and whole blood samples.Furthermore, a detailed analysis describing the differences in the IFN signature in autoimmune diseases from that observed after viral infection has not been performed to date. Therefore, in this study, the transcriptional responses in peripheral T helper cells (CD4+) and monocyte subsets (CD16− inflammatory and CD16+ resident monocytes) isolated from patients with SLE, healthy donors (ND) immunised with the yellow fever vaccine YFV-17Dand untreated controls were compared by global gene expression profiling.It was striking that all of the transcripts that were regulated in response to viral exposure were also found to be differentially regulated in SLE, albeit with markedly lower fold-change values. In addition to this common IFN signature, a pathogenic IFN-associated gene signature was detected in the CD4+ T cells and monocytes from the lupus patients. IL-10, IL-9 and IL-15-mediated JAK/STAT signalling was shown to be involved in the pathological amplification of IFN responses observed in SLE. Type I IFN signatures identified were successfully applied for the monitoring of interferon responses in PBMCs of an independent cohort of SLE patients and virus-infected individuals. Moreover, these cell-type specific gene signatures allowed a correct classification of PBMCs independent from their heterogenic cellular composition. In conclusion, our data show for the first time that monocytes and CD4 cells are sensitive biosensors to monitor type I interferon response signatures in autoimmunity and viral infection and how these transriptional responses are modulated in a cell- and disease-specific manner.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083776
PMCID: PMC3877094  PMID: 24391825
21.  Elevated signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 correlates with increased C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 and C-X-C motif chemokine 10 levels in peripheral blood of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Introduction
The present study examines the levels of recently reported biomarkers, adenosine deaminase acting on RNA (ADAR), C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2), C-X-C motif chemokine 10 (CXCL10), signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1), and miR-146a in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients over multiple visits.
Methods
Peripheral blood leukocytes were collected from 65 healthy donors and 103 SLE patients, 60 of whom had samples from 2 or more visits. Total RNA was isolated and analyzed for the expression of mRNA and microRNA using Taqman real time PCR assays. Relative expression of I-IFN signature genes, chemokines, and miR-146a were determined by the ΔΔCT method. Results were correlated with clinical data and analyzed by Wilcoxon/Kruskal-Wallis test and Fisher’s exact test.
Results
Levels of ADAR, CCL2, CXCL10, and STAT1 in SLE were significantly elevated compared with the healthy controls (P <0.0001). ADAR, CCL2, and CXCL10 showed significant correlation with IFN score in both healthy donors (P <0.0033) and SLE patients (P <0.0001). In SLE patients, miR-146a level was not significantly different from healthy controls nor correlated to the IFN score. Two STAT1 populations were identified: a low STAT1 and a high STAT1 group. High STAT1 patient visits displayed higher (P ≤0.0020) levels of CCL2 and CXCL10 than the low STAT1 patient visits. STAT1 levels correlated with IFN score in low STAT1 group but not in high STAT1 group. More importantly, high STAT1 levels appeared as an enhancer of CCL2 and CXCL10 as indicated by the significantly stronger correlation of CCL2 and CXCL10 with IFN score in high STAT1 patient visits relative to low STAT1 patient visits.
Conclusion
Our data indicate a novel role for STAT1 in the pathogenesis of SLE as an expression enhancer of CCL2 and CXCL10 in SLE patients with high levels of STAT1. Future study is needed to examine the exact role of STAT1 in the etiology of SLE.
doi:10.1186/ar4448
PMCID: PMC3978614  PMID: 24451065
22.  Murine BAFF expression is up-regulated by estrogen and interferons: Implications for sex bias in the development of autoimmunity 
Molecular immunology  2012;53(1-2):15-23.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in patients and certain mouse models exhibits a strong sex bias. Additionally, in most patients, increased serum levels of type I interferon (IFN-α) are associated with severity of the disease. Because increased levels of B cell activating factor (BAFF) in SLE patients and mouse models are associated with the development of SLE, we investigated whether the female sex hormone estrogen (E2) and/or IFNs (IFN-α or γ) could regulate the expression of murine BAFF. We found that steady-state levels of BAFF mRNA and protein were measurably higher in immune cells (CD11b+, CD11c+, and CD19+) isolated from C57BL/6 females than the age-matched male mice. Treatment of immune cells with IFN or E2 significantly increased levels of BAFF mRNA and protein and a deficiency of estrogen receptor-α, IRF5, or STAT1 expression in splenic cells decreased expression of BAFF. Moreover, treatment of RAW264.7 macrophage cells with IFN-α, IFN-γ, or E2 induced expression of BAFF. Interestingly, increased expression of p202, an IFN and estrogen-inducible protein, in RAW264.7 cells significantly increased the expression levels of BAFF and also stimulated the activity of the BAFF-luc-reporter. Accordingly, the increased expression of the p202 protein in lupus-prone B6.Nba2-ABC than non lupus-prone C57BL/6 and B6.Nba2-C female mice was associated with increased expression levels of BAFF. Together, our observations demonstrated that estrogen and IFN-induced increased levels of the p202 protein in immune cells contribute to sex bias in part through up-regulation of BAFF expression.
doi:10.1016/j.molimm.2012.06.013
PMCID: PMC3439561  PMID: 22784990
BAFF; estrogen; interferon; p202; SLE
23.  IRF5 activation in monocytes of SLE patients is triggered by circulating autoantigens independent of type I IFN 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(3):788-798.
Objective
Genetic variants of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) are associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IRF5 regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and type I interferons (IFN) believed to be involved in SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the activation status of IRF5 by assessing its nuclear localization in immune cells of SLE patients and healthy donors, and to identify SLE triggers of IRF5 activation.
Methods
IRF5 nuclear localization in subpopulations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 14 genotyped SLE patients and 11 healthy controls was assessed using imaging flow cytometry. IRF5 activation and function were examined after ex vivo stimulation of healthy donor monocytes with SLE serum or components of SLE serum. Cellular localization was determined by ImageStream and cytokine expression by Q-PCR and ELISA.
Results
IRF5 was activated in a cell type-specific manner; monocytes of SLE patients had constitutively elevated levels of nuclear IRF5 compared to NK and T cells. SLE serum was identified as a trigger for IRF5 nuclear accumulation; however, neither IFNα nor SLE immune complexes could induce nuclear localization. Instead, autoantigens comprised of apoptotic/necrotic material triggered IRF5 nuclear accumulation in monocytes. Production of cytokines IFNα, TNFα and IL6 in monocytes stimulated with SLE serum or autoantigens was distinct yet correlated with the kinetics of IRF5 nuclear localization.
Conclusion
This study provides the first formal proof that IRF5 activation is altered in monocytes of SLE patients that is in part contributed by the SLE blood environment.
doi:10.1002/art.33395
PMCID: PMC3288585  PMID: 21968701
24.  Monocyte surface expression of Fcγ receptor RI (CD64), a biomarker reflecting type-I interferon levels in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Introduction
More than half of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients show evidence of excess type I interferon (IFN-I) production, a phenotype associated with renal disease and certain autoantibodies. However, detection of IFN-I proteins in serum is unreliable, and the measurement of interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression is expensive and time consuming. The aim of this study was to identify a surrogate marker for IFN-I activity in clinical samples for monitoring disease activity and response to therapy.
Methods
Monocyte surface expression of Fcγ receptors (FcγRs), chemokine receptors, and activation markers were analyzed with flow cytometry in whole blood from patients with SLE and healthy controls. FcγR expression also was measured in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy controls cultured with Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists, cytokines, or serum from SLE patients. Expression of ISGs was analyzed with real-time PCR.
Results
Circulating CD14+ monocytes from SLE patients showed increased surface expression of FcγRI (CD64). The mean fluorescent intensity of CD64 staining correlated highly with the ISG expression (MX1, IFI44, and Ly6E). In vitro, IFN-I as well as TLR7 and TLR9 agonists, induced CD64 expression on monocytes from healthy controls. Exposure of monocytes from healthy controls to SLE sera also upregulated the expression of CD64 in an IFN-I-dependent manner. Decreased CD64 expression was observed concomitant with the reduction of ISG expression after high-dose corticosteroid therapy.
Conclusions
Expression of CD64 on circulating monocytes is IFN-I inducible and highly correlated with ISG expression. Flow-cytometry analysis of CD64 expression on circulating monocytes is a convenient and rapid approach for estimating IFN-I levels in SLE patients.
doi:10.1186/ar3017
PMCID: PMC2911874  PMID: 20478071
25.  Age- and gender-specific modulation of serum osteopontin and interferon-α by osteopontin genotype in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Genes and immunity  2009;10(5):487-494.
Osteopontin (OPN) is a multifunctional cytokine involved in long bone remodeling and immune system signaling. Additionally, OPN is critical for interferon-α (IFN-α) production in murine plasmacytoid dendritic cells. We have previously shown that IFN-α is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Genetic variants of OPN have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and one study suggests that this association is particular to men. In this study, the 3′ UTR SLE-risk variant of OPN (rs9138C) was associated with higher serum OPN and IFN-α in men (P = 0.0062 and P = 0.0087, respectively). In women, the association between rs9138 C and higher serum OPN and IFN-α was restricted to younger subjects, and risk allele carriers showed a strong age-related genetic effect of rs9138 genotype on both serum OPN and IFN-α (P<0.0001). In African-American subjects, the 5′ region single nucleotide polymorphisms, rs11730582 and rs28357094, were associated with anti-RNP antibodies (odds ratio (OR) = 2.9, P = 0.0038 and OR = 3.9, P = 0.021, respectively). Thus, we demonstrate two distinct genetic influences of OPN on serum protein traits in SLE patients, which correspond to previously reported SLE-risk variants. This study provides a biologic relevance for OPN variants at the protein level, and suggests an influence of this gene on the IFN-α pathway in SLE.
doi:10.1038/gene.2009.15
PMCID: PMC2762275  PMID: 19339987
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon-α; osteopontin; age; gender; autoantibodies

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