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1.  Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 in the Pathogenesis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by multiple genetic risk factors, high levels of interferon alpha (IFN-α), and the production of autoantibodies against components of the cell nucleus. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) is a transcription factor which induces the transcription of IFN-α and other cytokines, and genetic variants of IRF5 have been strongly linked to SLE pathogenesis. IRF5 functions downstream of Toll-like receptors and other microbial pattern-recognition receptors, and immune complexes made up of SLE-associated autoantibodies seem to function as a chronic endogenous stimulus to this pathway. In this paper, we discuss the physiologic role of IRF5 in immune defense and the ways in which IRF5 variants may contribute to the pathogenesis of human SLE. Recent data regarding the role of IRF5 in both serologic autoimmunity and the overproduction of IFN-α in human SLE are summarized. These data support a model in which SLE-risk variants of IRF5 participate in a “feed-forward” mechanism, predisposing to SLE-associated autoantibody formation, and subsequently facilitating IFN-α production downstream of Toll-like receptors stimulated by immune complexes composed of these autoantibodies.
PMCID: PMC3509422  PMID: 23251221
2.  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.
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
3.  Clinical and serological manifestations associated with interferon-α levels in childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus 
Clinics  2012;67(2):157-162.
To determine the serum levels of interferon alpha in childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients, their first-degree relatives and healthy controls and to evaluate the associations between serum interferon alpha and disease activity, laboratory findings and treatment features.
We screened consecutive childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients in a longitudinal cohort at the pediatric rheumatology unit of the State University of Campinas between 2009 and 2010. All patients demonstrated disease onset before the age of 16. Disease status was assessed according to the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) and Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index (SDI). Interferon alpha levels were measured using an enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay.
We included 57 childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients (mean age 17.33±4.50), 64 first-degree relatives (mean age 39.95±5.66), and 57 healthy (mean age 19.30±4.97) controls. Serum interferon alpha levels were significantly increased in childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus patients compared to their first-degree relatives and healthy controls. Interferon alpha levels were significantly increased in patients with positive dsDNA antibodies, patients with cutaneous vasculitis, patients with new malar rash and patients who were not receiving medication. Interferon alpha levels correlated with C3 levels and systemic lupus erythematosus Disease Activity Index scores. In addition, we observed an inverse correlation between patient age and interferon alpha levels.
Interferon alpha may play a role in the pathogenesis of childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus, especially in cutaneous manifestations and dsDNA antibody formation. The observation that interferon alpha levels are increased in patients who are not taking medication should be investigated in longitudinal studies to determine whether elevated interferon alpha levels may predict systemic lupus erythematosus flares.
PMCID: PMC3275113  PMID: 22358241
Interferon alpha (IFN-α); SLEDAI; Childhood-onset; Systemic lupus erythematosus
4.  Genetic associations in type I interferon related pathways with autoimmunity 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(Suppl 1):S2.
Type I interferons play an outstanding role in innate and adaptive immunity by enhancing functions of dendritic cells, inducing differentiation of monocytes, promoting immunoglobulin class switching in B cells and stimulating effector functions of T cells. The increased production of IFNα/β by plasmacytoid dendritic cells could be responsible for not only efficient antiviral defence, but it also may be a pathological factor in the development of various autoimmune disorders. The first evidence of a genetic link between type I interferons and autoimmune diseases was the observation that elevated IFNα activity is frequently detected in the sera of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, and that this trait shows high heritability and familial aggregation in their first-degree healthy relatives. To date, a number of genes involved in interferon signalling have been associated with various autoimmune diseases. Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren's syndrome, dermatomyositis, psoriasis, and a fraction of patients with rheumatoid arthritis display a specific expression pattern of interferon-dependent genes in their leukocytes, termed the interferon signature. Here, in an attempt to understand the role of type I interferons in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity, we review the recent advances in the genetics of autoimmune diseases focusing on the association of genes involved in type I interferon pathways.
PMCID: PMC2991775  PMID: 20392289
5.  Antagonist-mediated down-regulation of toll-like receptors increases the prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Prevalence of an abnormal Papanicolaou smear was significantly increased in lupus patients in cross-sectional studies, associated with a higher prevalence of high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The nucleic acid-specific Toll-like receptors (TLRs) locate at the endolysosomal compartments and trigger the induction of cytokines for the innate immune response. This study evaluated whether abnormal host innate immune response in lupus patients may enhance HPV persistence.
Protein levels of TLRs 3, 7, 8 and 9 in cervical epithelial cells of lupus patients and controls with or without HPV infection were assessed using flow cytometry. Characteristics associated with the differential expression of TLRs in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were elucidated. The effect and interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) (ISG15 and Mx-1) gene expressions were then measured in oncogenic HeLa (HPV18), CaSki (HPV) and C33A (HPV negative) cell lines using flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR. Ex vivo productions of cytokines and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) upon TLR ligands stimulations were subsequently measured using cytometric bead array and ELISA.
For subjects with HPV infection, levels of TLR3 and TLR7 were significantly lower in lupus patients compared with controls. Significantly decreased TLRs 7, 8 and 9 levels were observed in HPV-negative SLE compared to healthy controls. For SLE with and without HPV infection, TLR7 and 9 levels were significantly lower in infected SLE than those in HPV-negative patients. Independent explanatory variables associated with down-regulation of TLR7 level included HPV infection and a higher cumulative dose of prednisolone; while a higher cumulative dose of hydroxychloroquine and HPV infection were associated with down-regulation of TLR9 level. In cervical cell lines, TLRs 3, 7, 8, 9 protein levels and antiviral ISG15 and Mx-1 gene expressions were inhibited in two oncogenic HPV types. Functional data showed that the induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines by TLR ligands (R837, ssRNA and ODN2395) was greatly impaired in CaSki and HeLa than C33A cells.
In conclusion, prednisolone and TLR antagonist (hydroxychloroquine) may down-regulate protein levels of TLR7 and TLR9 in lupus patients, thereby decreasing the innate immune response against HPV infection. Upon infection, HPV further down-regulate TLR7 and 9 levels for viral persistence. Furthermore, reduction of nucleic acid-sensing TLRs 7, 8 and 9 in carcinogenic HPVs ensures that the expression of inducible pro-inflammatory cytokines is minimized to prevent the expression of antiviral ISGs (ISG15 and Mx-1) on a biologically relevant antiviral response.
PMCID: PMC3446454  PMID: 22513098
6.  Emerging Roles for the Interferon-Inducible p200-Family Proteins in Sex Bias in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex autoimmune disease involving multiple organs. The disease is characterized by the production of pathogenic autoantibodies to DNA and certain nuclear antigens, chronic inflammation, and immune dysregulation. Genetic studies involving SLE patients and mouse models have indicated that multiple lupus susceptible genes contribute to the disease phenotype. Notably, the development of SLE in patients and in certain mouse models exhibits a strong sex bias. In addition, several lines of evidence indicates that activation of interferon-α (IFN-α) signaling in immune cells and alterations in the expression of certain immunomodulatory cytokines contribute to lupus pathogenesis. Studies have implicated factors, such as the X chromosomal gene dosage effect and the sex hormones, in gender bias in SLE. However, the molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Additionally, it remains unclear whether these factors influence the “IFN-signature,” which is associated with SLE. In this regard, a mutually positive regulatory feedback loop between IFNs and estrogen receptor-α (ERα) has been identified in immune cells. Moreover, studies indicate that the expression of certain IFN-inducible p200-family proteins that act as innate immune sensors for cytosolic DNA is differentially regulated by sex hormones. In this review, we discuss how the modulation of the expression of the p200-family proteins in immune cells by sex hormones and IFNs contributes to sex bias in SLE. An improved understanding of the regulation and roles of the p200-family proteins in immune cells is critical to understand lupus pathogenesis as well as response (or the lack of it) to various therapies.
PMCID: PMC3234491  PMID: 21902548
7.  Effects of IRF5 Lupus Risk Haplotype on Pathways Predicted to Influence B Cell Functions 
Both genetic and environmental interactions affect systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) development and pathogenesis. One known genetic factor associated with lupus is a haplotype of the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene. Analysis of global gene expression microarray data using gene set enrichment analysis identified multiple interferon- and inflammation-related gene sets significantly overrepresented in cells with the risk haplotype. Pathway analysis using expressed genes from the significant gene sets impacted by the IRF5 risk haplotype confirmed significant correlation with the interferon pathway, Toll-like receptor pathway, and the B-cell receptor pathway. SLE patients with the IRF5 risk haplotype have a heightened interferon signature, even in an unstimulated state (P = 0.011), while patients with the IRF5 protective haplotype have a B cell interferon signature similar to that of controls. These results identify multiple genes in functionally significant pathways which are affected by IRF5 genotype. They also establish the IRF5 risk haplotype as a key determinant of not only the interferon response, but also other B-cell pathways involved in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3304673  PMID: 22500098
8.  Pathogenesis of kidney disease in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Current opinion in rheumatology  2009;21(5):489-494.
Purpose of review
A combination of systemic autoimmunity and tissue response to immune injury underlie renal involvement in lupus erythematosus. In this review, we discuss recent literature investigating pathogenetic mechanisms of lupus glomerulonephritis.
Recent findings
In lupus glomerulonephritis, glomerular immune complexes were believed to be the primary mediators of renal disease. Recent studies make it apparent that autoantibodies of multiple specificities participate in the formation of immune complexes, deposited in the kidneys. Renal infiltration by T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells have a dominant role in the progression of lupus glomerulonephritis leading to renal failure. Activation of Toll-like receptors modulates autoantibody production and systemic interferon responses. However, glomerular cell responses to immune injury influence disease outcome. In addition, new insights on the genetics of susceptibility to end-organ damage in lupus glomerulonephritis have been discovered. Differential glomerular responses reflected in gene expression profiles during disease progression provide potential markers for diagnosis of lupus glomerulonephritis progression and flares. In addition, studies of end-organ responses provide new targets for therapeutic interventions.
Lupus glomerulonephritis is a prototype of immune complex disease mediated by autoantibodies of multiple specificities, one of which is anti-DNA. Murine models of spontaneous systemic lupus erythematosus have been critical for understanding the underlying disease. Recent studies demonstrate that in addition to systemic autoimmunity, end-organ responses, and end-organ resistance to damage are also critical in determining disease outcome. This understanding should influence design of novel therapeutic approaches in systemic lupus erythematosus.
PMCID: PMC2841319  PMID: 19584729
autoantibodies; end-organ resistance to damage; glomerular gene expression; lupus nephritis; mouse models; SLE
9.  Accelerated Atherosclerosis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Role of Proinflammatory Cytokines and Therapeutic Approaches 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a chronic multisystem autoimmune disease with a broad range of clinical manifestations, is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis (AT) and increased risk of cardiovascular complications. Relevant factors directly influencing the development of AT comprise immune complex generation, complement activation, and changes in the production and activity of a complex network of cytokines, including type I and II interferons, B lymphocyte stimulator (BLyS), TNFα, IL-6, IL-17 and migration macrophage inhibitor (MIF). Autoantibodies, also responsible for cytokine expression and activation, play a supplementary key role in the development of AT. Genomic and proteomic studies have contributed to the discovery of genes and proteins involved in AT, including some that may be suitable to be used as biomarkers. All that data has allowed the development of new drugs, most of them evaluated in clinical trials: inhibitors of IFN and TNFα, B cell directed therapies, synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides, intravenous immunoglobulin, or statins. The focus of the present paper is to summarize recent evidence showing the role of cytokines in the development of AT in SLE and the rationale, and safety concerns, in the use of combined therapy to prevent AT and cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2948929  PMID: 20936125
10.  Mediators of Inflammation and Their Effect on Resident Renal Cells: Implications in Lupus Nephritis 
Lupus nephritis affects up to 70% of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. It is characterized by a breakdown of immune tolerance, production of autoantibodies, and deposition of immune complexes within the kidney parenchyma, resulting in local inflammation and subsequent organ damage. To date, numerous mediators of inflammation have been implicated in the development and progression of lupus nephritis, and these include cytokines, chemokines, and glycosaminoglycans. Of these, type I interferons (IFNs) can increase both gene and protein expression of cytokines and chemokines associated with lupus susceptibility, and interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and hyaluronan have been shown to elicit both pro- and anti-inflammatory effects on infiltrating and resident renal cells depending on the status of their microenvironment. Expression of IL-6, TNF-α, type I IFNs, and hyaluronan are increased in the kidneys of patients and mice with active lupus nephritis and have been shown to contribute to disease pathogenesis. There is also evidence that despite clinical remission, ongoing inflammatory processes may occur within the glomerular and tubulointerstitial compartments of the kidney, which further promote kidney injury. In this review, we provide an overview of the synthesis and putative roles of IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-α, and hyaluronan in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis focusing on their effects on human mesangial cells and proximal renal tubular epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3793320  PMID: 24171032
11.  Trait-stratified genome-wide association study identifies novel and diverse genetic associations with serologic and cytokine phenotypes in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2010;12(4):R151.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous disorder, characterized by differences in autoantibody profile, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. SLE-associated autoantibodies and high serum interferon alpha (IFN-α) are important heritable phenotypes in SLE which are correlated with each other, and play a role in disease pathogenesis. These two heritable risk factors are shared between ancestral backgrounds. The aim of the study was to detect genetic factors associated with autoantibody profiles and serum IFN-α in SLE.
We undertook a case-case genome-wide association study of SLE patients stratified by ancestry and extremes of phenotype in serology and serum IFN-α. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in seven loci were selected for follow-up in a large independent cohort of 538 SLE patients and 522 controls using a multi-step screening approach based on novel metrics and expert database review. The seven loci were: leucine-rich repeat containing 20 (LRRC20); protein phosphatase 1 H (PPM1H); lysophosphatidic acid receptor 1 (LPAR1); ankyrin repeat and sterile alpha motif domain 1A (ANKS1A); protein tyrosine phosphatase, receptor type M (PTPRM); ephrin A5 (EFNA5); and V-set and immunoglobulin domain containing 2 (VSIG2).
SNPs in the LRRC20, PPM1H, LPAR1, ANKS1A, and VSIG2 loci each demonstrated strong association with a particular serologic profile (all odds ratios > 2.2 and P < 3.5 × 10-4). Each of these serologic profiles was associated with increased serum IFN-α. SNPs in both PTPRM and LRRC20 were associated with increased serum IFN-α independent of serologic profile (P = 2.2 × 10-6 and P = 2.6 × 10-3 respectively). None of the SNPs were strongly associated with SLE in case-control analysis, suggesting that the major impact of these variants will be upon subphenotypes in SLE.
This study demonstrates the power of using serologic and cytokine subphenotypes to elucidate genetic factors involved in complex autoimmune disease. The distinct associations observed emphasize the heterogeneity of molecular pathogenesis in SLE, and the need for stratification by subphenotypes in genetic studies. We hypothesize that these genetic variants play a role in disease manifestations and severity in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2945049  PMID: 20659327
12.  Induction of autoimmunity by pristane and other naturally-occurring hydrocarbons 
Trends in immunology  2009;30(9):455-464.
Tetramethylpentadecane (TMPD, or commonly known as pristane)-induced lupus is a murine model of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Renal disease and autoantibody production strictly depend on signaling through the interferon (IFN)-I receptor. The major source of IFN-I is immature monocytes bearing high levels of the surface marker Ly6C. Interferon production is mediated exclusively by signaling through TLR7 and the adapter protein MyD88. It is likely that endogenous TLR7 ligands such as components of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein complexes are involved in triggering disease. Lupus autoantibodies are produced in ectopic lymphoid tissue developing in response to TMPD. This model is well suited for examining links between dysregulated IFN-I production and the pathogenesis of human SLE, which like TMPD-lupus, is associated with high levels of IFN-I.
PMCID: PMC2746238  PMID: 19699150
13.  A Novel Type I Interferon-producing Cell Subset in Murine Lupus 
Excess type-I interferons (IFN-I) have been linked to the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Therapeutic use of IFN-I can trigger the onset of SLE and most lupus patients display upregulation of a group of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs). While this “interferon signature” has been linked with disease activity, kidney involvement, and autoantibody production, the source of IFN-I production in SLE remains unclear. Tetramethylpentadecane (TMPD)-induced lupus is at present the only model of SLE associated with excess IFN-I production and ISG expression. Here we demonstrate that TMPD treatment induces an accumulation of immature Ly6Chi monocytes, which are a major source of IFN-I in this lupus model. Importantly, they were distinct from interferon-producing dendritic cells. The expression of IFN-I and ISGs was rapidly abolished by monocyte depletion whereas systemic ablation of dendritic cells (DCs) had little effect. In addition, there was a striking correlation between the numbers of Ly6Chi monocytes and the production of lupus autoantibodies. Therefore, immature monocytes rather than DCs appear to be the primary source of IFN-I in this model of IFN-I dependent lupus.
PMCID: PMC2909121  PMID: 18354236
autoimmunity; systemic lupus erythematosus; monocytes
14.  The interferon-α signature of systemic lupus erythematosus 
Lupus  2010;19(9):1012-1019.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a prototypic multisystem autoimmune disorder where interplay of environmental and genetic risk factors leads to progressive loss of tolerance to nuclear antigens over time, finally culminating in clinical disease. The heterogeneity of clinical manifestations and the disease’s unpredictable course characterized by flares and remissions are very likely a reflection of heterogeneity at the origin of disease, with a final common pathway leading to loss of tolerance to nuclear antigens. Impaired clearance of immune complexes and apoptotic material and production of autoantibodies have long been recognized as major pathogenic events in this disease. Over the past decade the type I interferon cytokine family has been postulated to play a central role in SLE pathogenesis, by promoting feedback loops progressively disrupting peripheral immune tolerance and driving disease activity. The identification of key molecules involved in the pathogenesis of SLE will not only improve our understanding of this complex disease, but also help to identify novel targets for biological intervention.
PMCID: PMC3658279  PMID: 20693194
autoantibody; autoantigen; B cells; complement; dendritic cells; genetics; immune complex; interferon; pathogenesis; systemic lupus erythematosus; Toll-like receptor
Arthritis and rheumatism  2007;56(11):3770-3783.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is diagnosed by a spectrum of clinical manifestations and autoantibodies associated with abnormal expression of Type I interferon (IFN-I) stimulated genes (ISGs). The role of IFN-I in the pathogenesis of SLE remains uncertain, partly due to the lack of suitable animal models. The objective of this study was to examine the role of IFN-I signaling in the pathogenesis of murine lupus induced by 2, 6, 10, 14 tetramethylpentadecane (TMPD).
129Sv IFN-I receptor deficient (IFNAR−/−) and control 129Sv mice were treated i.p. with TMPD. The expression of ISGs was measured by real-time PCR. Autoantibody production was evaluated by immunofluorescence and ELISA. Proteinuria and renal glomerular cellularity were measured and renal immune complexes were examined by immunofluorescence.
Increased ISG expression was seen in peripheral blood of TMPD-treated wild type but not IFNAR−/− mice. TMPD did not induce lupus-specific autoantibodies (anti-nRNP/Sm, -dsDNA) in IFNAR−/− mice, whereas 129Sv controls developed these specificities. Although glomerular immune complexes were present in IFNAR−/− mice, proteinuria and glomerular hypercellularity did not develop, unlike TMPD-treated controls. Thus, consistent with the association of increased ISG expression with lupus-specific autoantibodies, and nephritis in humans, these clinical and serological manifestations were strongly dependent on IFNAR signaling in TMPD-treated mice.
Signaling via the IFNAR is central to the pathogenesis of autoantibodies and glomerulonephritis in TMPD-lupus, consistent with a similar role in human SLE. TMPD-lupus is the first animal model shown to recapitulate the interferon signature in peripheral blood.
PMCID: PMC2909118  PMID: 17968932
16.  Monocyte surface expression of Fcγ receptor RI (CD64), a biomarker reflecting type-I interferon levels in systemic lupus erythematosus 
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2911874  PMID: 20478071
17.  The Epstein-Barr Virus SM Protein Induces STAT1 and Interferon-Stimulated Gene Expression 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(6):3690-3701.
Viruses utilize numerous mechanisms to counteract the host's immune response. Interferon production is a major component of the host antiviral response. Many viruses, therefore, produce proteins or RNA molecules that inhibit interferon-induced signal transduction pathways and their associated antiviral effects. Surprisingly, some viruses directly induce expression of interferon-induced genes. SM, an early lytic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) nuclear protein, was found to specifically increase the expression of several genes (interferon-stimulated genes) that are known to be strongly induced by alpha/beta interferons. SM does not directly stimulate alpha/beta interferon secretion but instead induces STAT1, an intermediate step in the interferon signaling pathway. SM is a posttranscriptional activator of gene expression and increases STAT1 mRNA accumulation, particularly that of the functionally distinct STAT1β splice variant. SM expression in B lymphocytes is associated with decreased cell proliferation but does not decrease cell viability or induce cell cycle arrest. These results indicate that EBV can specifically induce cellular genes that are normally physiological targets of interferon by inducing components of cytokine signaling pathways. Our findings therefore suggest that some aspects of the interferon response may be positively modulated by infecting viruses.
PMCID: PMC149524  PMID: 12610144
18.  Neutrophils and interferon-α-producing cells: who produces interferon in lupus? 
Interferon-α plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus. Nevertheless, the different human cell types producing this cytokine as well as the stimuli inducing its production have not been completely characterized. So far, a subpopulation of dendritic cells activated by immune complexes has been identified as major producers of interferon-α in patients with lupus. However, those cells represent a minor population and some studies have reported the secretion of interferon-α by other cells. On the other hand, more than 50% of blood leukocytes are neutrophils and their functions are still not fully understood. Recent data suggest that neutrophils, though usually not considered interferon-α-producing cells, may represent an unexpected source of this cytokine in response to some lupus stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3239333  PMID: 21745418
19.  Emerging Therapies for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus - Focus on Targeting Interferon-alpha 
Clinical Immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2012;143(3):210-221.
Current therapies for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a debilitating, potentially lethal, multifactorial systemic autoimmune disease, are limited to suppressing disease activity and are associated with multiple adverse effects. Recent advances in basic and translational sciences have elucidated a crucial role for the interferon-alpha (IFNα) pathway in the pathogenesis of this enigmatic disease. The so-called “type I interferon signature” has emerged as a major risk factor for disease activity of SLE. Multiple genes encoding for molecules within the type I interferon pathway have been associated with SLE in genome wide association studies. In addition, innate immune receptors are thought to be triggered by either endogenous and/or exogenous stimuli that lead to hypersecretion of IFNα. We review the multiple emerging treatment strategies targeting IFNα-related pathways. These include monoclonal antibodies against IFNα, anti-IFNα antibody-inducing vaccines, and inhibitors of toll-like receptors. We also summarize the current status of these pharmaceutical agents in early clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3358492  PMID: 22525889
pDC; TLR; IRF; JAK/STAT; Pin1; interferonopathies; virome; proteasome
20.  Gene-Expression-Guided Selection of Candidate Loci and Molecular Phenotype Analyses Enhance Genetic Discovery in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a highly heterogeneous autoimmune disorder characterized by differences in autoantibody profiles, serum cytokines, and clinical manifestations. We have previously conducted a case-case genome-wide association study (GWAS) of SLE patients to detect associations with autoantibody profile and serum interferon alpha (IFN-α). In this study, we used public gene expression data sets to rationally select additional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for validation. The top 200 GWAS SNPs were searched in a database which compares genome-wide expression data to genome-wide SNP genotype data in HapMap cell lines. SNPs were chosen for validation if they were associated with differential expression of 15 or more genes at a significance of P < 9 × 10−5. This resulted in 11 SNPs which were genotyped in 453 SLE patients and 418 matched controls. Three SNPs were associated with SLE-associated autoantibodies, and one of these SNPs was also associated with serum IFN-α (P < 4.5 × 10−3 for all). One additional SNP was associated exclusively with serum IFN-α. Case-control analysis was insensitive to these molecular subphenotype associations. This study illustrates the use of gene expression data to rationally select candidate loci in autoimmune disease, and the utility of stratification by molecular phenotypes in the discovery of additional genetic associations in SLE.
PMCID: PMC3439981  PMID: 22988468
21.  Developments in the scientific understanding of lupus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of antinuclear antibodies (ANAs). Recent research into human and murine lupus suggests that disease susceptibility results from genetic polymorphisms regulating immune responses as well as impairing the clearance of apoptotic cells. Because the products of dead cells, including nucleic acids, have immunologic activity, this situation can promote antigen-driven ANA responses. Furthermore, immune complexes of ANAs can drive the production of proinflammatory cytokines, inducing the 'interferon signature', and intensifying disease. Together, these findings point to new genetic and immunologic markers of disease as well as targets for new therapies.
PMCID: PMC2592776  PMID: 18947369
22.  Nucleic Acid Sensors and Type I Interferon Production in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
The characteristic serologic feature of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is autoantibodies against one’s own nucleic acid or nucleic acid-binding proteins – DNA and RNA-binding nuclear proteins. Circulating autoantibodies can deposit in the tissue, causing inflammation and production of cytokines such as type 1 interferon (IFN). Investigations in human patients and animal models have implicated environmental as well as genetic factors in the biology of the SLE autoimmune response. Viral/Bacterial nucleic acid is a potent stimulant of innate immunity by both toll-like receptor (TLR) and non-TLR signaling cascades. Additionally, foreign DNA may act as an immunogen to drive an antigen-specific antibody response. Self nucleic acid is normally restricted to the nucleus or the mitochondria, away from the DNA/RNA sensors, and mechanisms exist to differentiate between foreign and self nucleic acid. In normal immunity, a diverse range of DNA and RNA sensors in different cell types form a dynamic and integrated molecular network to prevent viral infection. In SLE, pathologic activation of these sensors occurs via immune complexes consisting of autoantibodies bound to DNA or to nucleic acid-protein complexes. In this review, we will discuss recent studies outlining how mismanaged nucleic acid sensing networks promote autoimmunity and result in the over-production of type I IFN. This information is critical for improving therapeutic strategies for SLE disease.
PMCID: PMC3791549  PMID: 24109483
systemic lupus erythematosus; nucleic acid sensor; type 1 interferon; TLR; DNA; RNA
23.  Dense mapping of IL18 shows no association in SLE 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;20(5):1026-1033.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease which behaves as a complex genetic trait. At least 20 SLE risk susceptibility loci have been mapped using both candidate gene and genome-wide association strategies. The gene encoding the pro-inflammatory cytokine, IL18, has been reported as a candidate gene showing an association with SLE. This pleiotropic cytokine is expressed in a range of immune cells and has been shown to induce interferon-γ and tumour necrosis factor-α. Serum interleukin-18 has been reported to be elevated in patients with SLE. Here we aimed to densely map single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across IL18 to investigate the association across this locus. We genotyped 36 across IL18 by Illumina bead express in 372 UK SLE trios. We also genotyped these SNPs in a further 508 non-trio UK cases and were able to accurately impute a dense marker set across IL18 in WTCCC2 controls with a total of 258 SNPs. To improve the study's power, we also imputed a total of 158 SNPs across the IL18 locus using data from an SLE genome-wide association study and performed association testing. In total, we analysed 1818 cases and 10 770 controls in this study. Our large well-powered study (98% to detect odds ratio = 1.5, with respect to rs360719) showed that no individual SNP or haplotype was associated with SLE in any of the cohorts studied. We conclude that we were unable to replicate the SLE association with rs360719 located upstream of IL18. No evidence for association with any other common variant at IL18 with SLE was found.
PMCID: PMC3033184  PMID: 21149337
24.  Opportunistic infections in acquired immune deficiency syndrome result from synergistic defects of both the natural and adaptive components of cellular immunity. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1986;78(1):115-123.
We evaluated the cellular immunity of 408 clinically stratified subjects at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), to define the role of interferon-alpha production deficits in the pathogenesis of opportunistic infections (OI). We followed 115 prospectively for up to 45 mo. Onset of OI was associated with, and predicted by, deficiency both of interferon-alpha generation in vitro, and of circulating Leu-3a+ cells. Interferon-alpha production is an index of the function of certain non-T, non-B, large granular lymphocytes (LGL) that are independent of T cell help. Leu-3a+ cell counts are a marker of T cell function. OI did not usually develop until both of these mutually independent immune functions were simultaneously critically depressed, leading to a synergistic interaction. These data suggest that the AIDS virus affects a subset of LGL, and that cytokine production by these cells is an important component of the host defense against intracellular pathogens that becomes crucial in the presence of severe T cell immunodeficiency.
PMCID: PMC329539  PMID: 3088039
25.  The Role of Cytokines in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by a defect in immune tolerance and exacerbated by both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune response. SLE-associated immune hyperactivity can be detected systemically as elevations in levels of cytokines along with their upregulated receptors expressed by hematopoietic cells. Importantly, increased levels of cytokines and their receptors can be observed in target organs, and it is clear that they have important roles in disease pathogenesis. Recent therapeutic strategies have focused on proximal cytokines, such as interferon-α, interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor as a result of the efficacious use of biologic agents for intervention in rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Despite the recent advances in understanding the cytokine networks involved in autoimmune diseases and more specifically in SLE, the diagnosis and prognosis of lupus remain a challenge. Lupus is heterogeneous and unpredictable; moreover, the frequency and severity of flares can be difficult to determine and treat. A better understanding of the regulation of expression of key cytokines and their receptors can likely provide important clues to the pathogenic mechanisms underlying specific forms of SLE, and pave the way toward more effective therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3189549  PMID: 21787222

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