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.
IgA nephropathy (IgAN) and nephritis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are two common forms of glomerulonephritis in which genetic findings are of importance for disease development. We have recently reported an association of IgAN with variants of TGFB1. In several autoimmune diseases, particularly in SLE, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus have been shown to be important candidate genes. The aim of this study was to compare genetic variants from the TGFB1, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus with susceptibility to IgAN and lupus nephritis in two Swedish cohorts.
Patients and Methods
We genotyped 13 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in four genetic loci in 1252 DNA samples from patients with biopsy proven IgAN or with SLE (with and without nephritis) and healthy age- and sex-matched controls from the same population in Sweden.
Genotype and allelic frequencies for SNPs from selected genes did not differ significantly between lupus nephritis patients and SLE patients without nephritis. In addition, haplotype analysis for seven selected SNPs did not reveal a difference for the SLE patient groups with and without nephritis. Moreover, none of these SPNs showed a significant difference between IgAN patients and healthy controls. IRF5 and STAT4 variants remained significantly different between SLE cases and healthy controls. In addition, the data did not show an association of TRAF1-C5 polymorphism with susceptibility to SLE in this Swedish population.
Our data do not support an overlap in genetic susceptibility between patients with IgAN or SLE and reveal no specific importance of SLE associated SNPs for the presence of lupus nephritis.
Our understanding of the genetic basis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) has been rapidly advanced using large-scale, case–control, candidate gene studies as well as genome-wide association studies during the past 3 years. These techniques have identified more than 30 robust genetic associations with SLE including genetic variants of HLA and Fcγ receptor genes, IRF5, STAT4, PTPN22, TNFAIP3, BLK, BANK1, TNFSF4 and ITGAM. Most SLE-associated gene products participate in key pathogenic pathways, including Toll-like receptor and type I interferon signaling pathways, immune regulation pathways and those that control the clearance of immune complexes. Disease-associated loci that have not yet been demonstrated to have important functions in the immune system might provide new clues to the underlying molecular mechanisms that contribute to the pathogenesis or progression of SLE. Of note, genetic risk factors that are shared between SLE and other immune-related diseases highlight common pathways in the pathophysiology of these diseases, and might provide innovative molecular targets for therapeutic interventions.
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) show an over-expression of Type I Interferon (IFN) responsive genes called “Interferon Signature”. We found that the B6.NZMSle1/Sle2/Sle3 (Sle1,2,3) lupus-prone mice also express an Interferon Signature compared to non autoimmune C57BL/6 mice. In vitro, myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs)(GM-CSF bone marrow-derived BMDCs) from Sle1,2,3 mice constitutively over-expressed IFN responsive genes such as IFNb, Oas-3, Mx-1, ISG-15 and CXCL10, and the members of IFN signaling pathway STAT1, STAT2, and IRF7. The Interferon Signature was similar in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs from young, pre-autoimmune mice and from mice with high titers of autoantibodies, suggesting that the Interferon Signature in mDCs precedes disease onset and it is independent from the autoantibodies. Sle1,2,3 BMDCs hyper-responded to stimulation with IFNa and the TLR7 and TLR9 agonists R848 and CpGs. We propose that this hyper-response is induced by the Interferon Signature and only partially contributes to the Signature, since oligonucleotides inhibitory for TLR7 and TLR9 only partially suppressed the constitutive Interferon Signature and pre-exposure to IFNa induced the same hyper-response in wild type BMDCs than in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs. In vivo, mDCs and with lesser extent T and B cells from young pre-diseased Sle1,2,3 mice also expressed the Interferon Signature, although they lacked the strength that BMDCs showed in vitro. Sle1,2,3 plasmacytoid DCs expressed the Interferon Signature in vitro but not in vivo, suggesting that mDCs may be more relevant before disease onset. We propose that Sle1,2,3 mice are useful tools to study the role of the Interferon Signature in lupus pathogenesis.
Myeloid Dendritic cells; Type I Interferon; systemic lupus erythematosus; TLR; gene expression
Genetic variants of the interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene are associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility. The contribution of these variants to IRF-5 expression in primary blood cells of SLE patients has not been addressed, nor has the role of type I IFN. The aim of this study was to determine the association between increased IRF-5 expression and the IRF5 risk haplotype in SLE patients.
IRF-5 transcript and protein levels in 44 Swedish patients with SLE and 16 healthy controls were measured by quantitative real-time PCR, minigene assay, and flow cytometry. The rs2004640, rs10954213, rs10488631 and the CGGGG indel were genotyped in these patients. Genotypes of these polymorphisms defined a common risk and protective haplotype.
IRF-5 expression and alternative splicing were significantly upregulated in SLE patients versus healthy donors. Enhanced transcript and protein levels were associated with the risk haplotype of IRF5; rs10488631 gave the only significant independent association that correlated with increased transcription from non-coding exon 1C. Minigene experiments demonstrated an important role for rs2004640 and the CGGGG indel, along with type I IFNs in regulating IRF-5 expression.
This study provides the first formal proof that IRF-5 expression and alternative splicing are significantly upregulated in primary blood cells of SLE patients. The risk haplotype is associated with enhanced IRF-5 transcript and protein expression in SLE patients.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of antinuclear autoantibodies and the inflammatory infiltration of many organ systems. SLE is a complex disorder in which multiple genetic variants, together with environmental and hormonal factors, contribute to disease risk. In this article, we summarize our current understanding of the genetic contribution to SLE in light of recent genome-wide association studies, which have brought the total number of confirmed SLE susceptibility loci to 29. In the second section, we explore the functional implications of these risk loci and, in particular, highlight the role that many of these genes play in the Toll-like receptor and type I interferon signaling pathways. Finally, we discuss the genetic overlap between SLE and other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions as several risk loci are shared among multiple disorders, suggesting common underlying pathogenic mechanisms.
genome-wide association studies; pathogenesis; systemic lupus erythematosus; Toll-like receptor signaling; type I interferon signaling
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex systemic autoimmune disease associated with multiple immunologic abnormalities. Prominent among these is upregulation of type I interferon (IFN)—a powerful immune adjuvant. IFN is, in part, produced in SLE in response to autoantigens in the form of self-nucleic acids and their associated nuclear proteins. Sources of these autoantigens include apoptotic and necrotic cells as well as neutrophils undergoing a specific form of cell death called NETosis. Although plasmacytoid dendritic cells are the main producers of IFN-a, other cells are important regulators of this process. Both genetic and environmental risk factors play a role in the development and pathogenesis of SLE. Further highlighting the importance of IFN, candidate gene and genome-wide association studies have identified a number of genes involved in type I IFN pathways associated with SLE. In this review, 3 monogenic deficiencies that result in lupus-like phenotypes and several polygenic variants that have been consistently associated with SLE are highlighted, and the relationship of these genes to IFN-a production is discussed. Clinical associations of the type I IFN pathway and the use of IFN-blocking agents as therapeutic agents in SLE are also reviewed.
A haplotype of the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene has been associated with the risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and our previous studies have demonstrated that high levels of serum interferon-α (IFNα) activity are a heritable risk factor for SLE. The aim of this study was to determine whether the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype mediates the risk of SLE by predisposing patients to the development of high levels of serum IFNα activity.
IFNα levels in 199 SLE patients of European and Hispanic ancestry were measured with a sensitive functional reporter cell assay. The rs2004640, rs3807306, rs10488631, and rs2280714 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5 were genotyped in these patients. Haplotypes were categorized as SLE risk, neutral, or protective based on published data.
SLE patients with risk/risk and risk/neutral IRF5 genotypes had higher serum IFNα activity than did those with protective/protective and neutral/protective genotypes (P = 0.025). This differential effect of IRF5 genotype on serum IFNα levels was driven largely by SLE patients who were positive for either anti–RNA binding protein (anti-RBP) or anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) autoantibodies (P = 0.012 for risk/risk or risk/neutral versus protective/protective or neutral/protective). The rs3807306 genotype was independently associated with high serum IFNα in this autoantibody group. We found no difference in IFNα activity according to IRF5 genotype in patients lacking either type of autoantibody or in patients positive for both classes of autoantibody.
The IRF5 SLE risk haplotype is associated with higher serum IFNα activity in SLE patients, and this effect is most prominent in patients positive for either anti-RBP or anti-dsDNA autoantibodies. This study demonstrates the biologic relevance of the SLE risk haplotype of IRF5 at the protein level.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the prototypic systemic autoimmune disorder with complex etiology and a strong genetic component. Recently, gene products involved in the interferon pathway have been under intense investigation in SLE pathogenesis. STAT1 and STAT4 are transcription factors that play key roles in the interferon and Th1 signaling pathways, making them attractive candidates for SLE susceptibility.
Fifty-six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across STAT1 and STAT4 genes on chromosome 2 were genotyped using Illumina platform as a part of extensive association study in a large collection of 9923 lupus cases and controls from different racial groups. DNA from patients and controls was obtained from peripheral blood. Principal component analyses and population based case-control association analyses were performed and the p values, FDR q values and Odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated.
We observed strong genetic associations with SLE and multiple SNPs located within the STAT4 gene in different ethnicities (Fisher combined p= 7.02×10−25). In addition to strong confirmation of the association in the 3rd intronic region of this gene reported previously, we identified additional haplotypic association across STAT4 gene and in particular a common risk haplotype that is found in multiple racial groups. In contrast, only a relatively weak suggestive association was observed with STAT1, probably due to the proximity to STAT4.
Our findings indicate that the STAT4 gene is likely to be a crucial component in SLE pathogenesis among multiple racial groups. The functional effects of this association, when revealed, might improve our understanding of the disease and provide new therapeutic targets.
Recent genome-wide and candidate gene association studies in large numbers of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have suggested approximately 30 susceptibility genes. These genes are involved in three types of biological processes, including immune complex processing, toll-like receptor function and type I interferon production, and immune signal transduction in lymphocytes, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of SLE. To better understand the genetic risk factors of SLE, we investigated the associations of seven SLE susceptibility genes in a Chinese population, including FCGR3A, FCGR2A, TNFAIP3, TLR9, TREX1, ETS1 and TNIP1.
A total of 20 SNPs spanning the seven SLE susceptibility genes were genotyped in a sample of 564 unrelated SLE patients and 504 unrelated healthy controls recruited from Yunnan, southwestern China. The associations of SNPs with SLE were assessed by statistical analysis.
Five SNPs in two genes (TNFAIP3 and ETS1) were significantly associated with SLE (corrected P values ranging from 0.03 to 5.5 × 10-7). Through stratified analysis, TNFAIP3 and ETS1 showed significant associations with multiple SLE subphenotypes (such as malar rash, arthritis, hematologic disorder and antinuclear antibody) while TNIP1 just showed relatively weak association with onset age. The associations of the SNPs in the other four genes were not replicated.
The replication analysis indicates that TNFAIP3, ETS1 and TNIP1 are probably common susceptibility genes for SLE in Chinese populations, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple SLE subphenotypes.
Polymorphisms in the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene have been consistently replicated and shown to confer risk for or protection from the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IRF5 expression is significantly upregulated in SLE patients and upregulation associates with IRF5-SLE risk haplotypes. IRF5 alternative splicing has also been shown to be elevated in SLE patients. Given that human IRF5 exists as multiple alternatively spliced transcripts with distinct function(s), it is important to determine whether the IRF5 transcript profile expressed in healthy donor immune cells is different from that expressed in SLE patients. Moreover, it is not currently known whether an IRF5-SLE risk haplotype defines the profile of IRF5 transcripts expressed. Using standard molecular cloning techniques, we identified and isolated 14 new differentially spliced IRF5 transcript variants from purified monocytes of healthy donors and SLE patients to generate an IRF5 variant transcriptome. Next-generation sequencing was then used to perform in-depth and quantitative analysis of full-length IRF5 transcript expression in primary immune cells of SLE patients and healthy donors by next-generation sequencing. Evidence for additional alternatively spliced transcripts was obtained from de novo junction discovery. Data from these studies support the overall complexity of IRF5 alternative splicing in SLE. Results from next-generation sequencing correlated with cloning and gave similar abundance rankings in SLE patients thus supporting the use of this new technology for in-depth single gene transcript profiling. Results from this study provide the first proof that 1) SLE patients express an IRF5 transcript signature that is distinct from healthy donors, 2) an IRF5-SLE risk haplotype defines the top four most abundant IRF5 transcripts expressed in SLE patients, and 3) an IRF5 transcript signature enables clustering of SLE patients with the H2 risk haplotype.
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.
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.
pDC; TLR; IRF; JAK/STAT; Pin1; interferonopathies; virome; proteasome
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.
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.
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.
These findings suggest that in some SLE patients IFN-I dependent gene expression could be the result of a low IFNAR signaling threshold.
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.
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
The major risk factor for developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is being female. The present study utilized gene profiles of activated T cells from females with SLE and healthy controls to identify signaling pathways uniquely regulated by estradiol that could contribute to SLE pathogenesis. Selected downstream pathway genes (+/− estradiol) were measured by real time polymerase chain amplification. Estradiol uniquely upregulated six pathways in SLE T cells that control T cell function including interferon-α signaling. Measurement of interferon-α pathway target gene expression revealed significant differences (p = 0.043) in DRIP150 (+/− estradiol) in SLE T cell samples while IFIT1 expression was bimodal and correlated moderately (r = 0.55) with disease activity. The results indicate that estradiol alters signaling pathways in activated SLE T cells that control T cell function. Differential expression of transcriptional coactivators could influence estrogen-dependent gene regulation in T cell signaling and contribute to SLE onset and disease pathogenesis.
SLE; estradiol; interferon-α; T cell signaling; microarray
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.
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.
Interferon-α (IFNα) is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Genetic variation near IRF7 is implicated in SLE susceptibility. SLE-associated autoantibodies can stimulate IFNα production through the Toll-like receptor/IRF7 pathway. This study was undertaken to determine whether variants of IRF7 act as risk factors for SLE by increasing IFNα production and whether autoantibodies are important to this phenomenon.
We studied 492 patients with SLE (236 African American, 162 European American, and 94 Hispanic American subjects). Serum levels of IFNα were measured using a reporter cell assay, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the IRF7/PHRF1 locus were genotyped.
In a joint analysis of European American and Hispanic American subjects, the rs702966 C allele was associated with the presence of anti–double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) antibodies (odds ratio [OR] 1.83, P = 0.0069). The rs702966 CC genotype was only associated with higher serum levels of IFNα in European American and Hispanic American patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies (joint analysis P = 4.1 × 10−5 in anti-dsDNA–positive patients and P = 0.99 in anti-dsDNA–negative patients). In African American subjects, anti-Sm antibodies were associated with the rs4963128 SNP near IRF7 (OR 1.95, P = 0.0017). The rs4963128 CT and TT genotypes were associated with higher serum levels of IFNα only in African American patients with anti-Sm antibodies (P = 0.0012). In African American patients lacking anti-Sm antibodies, an effect of anti-dsDNA–rs702966 C allele interaction on serum levels of IFNα was observed, similar to the other patient groups (overall joint analysis P = 1.0 × 10−6). In European American and Hispanic American patients, the IRF5 SLE risk haplotype showed an additive effect with the rs702966 C allele on IFNα level in anti-dsDNA–positive patients.
Our findings indicate that IRF7/PHRF1 variants in combination with SLE-associated autoantibodies result in higher serum levels of IFNα, providing a biologic relevance for this locus at the protein level in human SLE in vivo.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a systemic multisystem autoimmune disorder influenced by genetic background and environmental factors. Our aim here was to replicate findings of associations between 7 of the implicated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in IRF5, BLK, STAT4, TNFAIP3, SPP1, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes with susceptibility to childhood-onset SLE in the Japanese population. In particular, we focused on gender differences in allelic frequencies.
The 7 SNPs were genotyped using TaqMan assays in 75 patients with childhood-onset SLE and in 190 healthy controls. The relationship between the cumulative number of risk alleles and SLE manifestations was explored in childhood-onset SLE. Logistic regression was used to test the effect of each polymorphism on susceptibility to SLE, and Wilcoxon rank sum testing was used for comparison of total risk alleles. Data on rs7574865 in the STAT4 gene and rs9138 in SPP1 were replicated for associations with SLE when comparing cases and controls (corrected P values ranging from 0.0043 to 0.027). The rs2230926 allele of TNFAIP3 was associated with susceptibility to SLE in males, but after Bonferroni correction there were no significant associations with any of the other four SNPs in IRF5, BLK, TNIP1 and ETS1 genes. The cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE relative to healthy controls (P = 0.0000041). Male SLE patients had a slightly but significantly higher frequency of the TNFAIP3 (rs2230926G) risk allele than female patients (odds ratio [OR] = 4.05, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] = 1.46–11.2 P<0.05).
Associations of polymorphisms in STAT4 and SPP1 with childhood-onset SLE were confirmed in a Japanese population. Although these are preliminary results for a limited number of cases, TNFAIP3 rs2230926G may be an important predictor of disease onset in males. We also replicated findings that the cumulative number of risk alleles was significantly increased in childhood-onset SLE.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To investigate risk factors for non‐Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and analyse NHL subtypes and characteristics in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
A national SLE cohort identified through SLE discharge diagnoses in the Swedish hospital discharge register during 1964 to 1995 (n = 6438) was linked to the national cancer register. A nested case control study on SLE patients who developed NHL during this observation period was performed with SLE patients without malignancy as controls. Medical records from cases and controls were reviewed. Tissue specimens on which the lymphoma diagnosis was based were retrieved and reclassified according to the WHO classification. NHLs of the subtype diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) were subject to additional immunohistochemical staining using antibodies against bcl‐6, CD10 and IRF‐4 for further subclassification into germinal centre (GC) or non‐GC subtypes.
16 patients with SLE had NHL, and the DLBCL subtype dominated (10 cases). The 5‐year overall survival and mean age at NHL diagnosis were comparable with NHL in the general population—50% and 61 years, respectively. Cyclophosphamide or azathioprine use did not elevate lymphoma risk, but the risk was elevated if haematological or sicca symptoms, or pulmonary involvement was present in the SLE disease. Two patients had DLBCL‐GC subtype and an excellent prognosis.
NHL in this national SLE cohort was predominated by the aggressive DLBCL subtype. The prognosis of NHL was comparable with that of the general lymphoma population. There were no indications of treatment‐induced lymphomas. Molecular subtyping could be a helpful tool to predict prognosis also in SLE patients with DLBCL.
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.
Background: In systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), antibodies directed at RNA-binding proteins (anti-RBP) are associated with high serum type I interferon (IFN), which plays an important role in SLE pathogenesis. African-Americans (AA) are more likely to develop SLE, and SLE is also more severe in this population. We hypothesized that peripheral blood gene expression patterns would differ between AA and European-American (EA) SLE patients, and between those with anti-RBP antibodies and those who lack these antibodies.
Methods: Whole blood RNA from 33 female SLE patients and 16 matched female controls from AA and EA ancestral backgrounds was analyzed on Affymetrix Gene 1.0 ST gene expression arrays. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis was used to compare the top differentially expressed canonical pathways amongst the sample groups. An independent cohort of 116 SLE patients was used to replicate findings using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR).
Results: Both AA and EA patients with positive anti-RBP antibodies showed over-expression of similar IFN-related canonical pathways, such as IFN Signaling (P = 1.3 × 10−7 and 6.3 × 10−11 in AA vs. EA respectively), Antigen Presenting Pathway (P = 1.8 × 10−5 and 2.5 × 10−6), and a number of pattern recognition receptor pathways. In anti-RBP negative (RBP−) patients, EA subjects demonstrated similar IFN-related pathway activation, whereas no IFN-related pathways were detected in RBP−AA patients. qPCR validation confirmed similar results.
Conclusion: Our data show that IFN-induced gene expression is completely dependent on the presence of autoantibodies in AA SLE patients but not in EA patients. This molecular heterogeneity suggests differences in IFN-pathway activation between ancestral backgrounds in SLE. This heterogeneity may be clinically important, as therapeutics targeting this pathway are being developed.
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon alpha; autoantibodies; ancestral background; interferon gamma
The Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) gene, encoded on human chromosome Xp22.3, is crucial for type I interferon production. A recent multicenter study in East Asian populations, comprising Chinese, Korean and Japanese participants, identified an association of a TLR7 single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) located in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR), rs3853839, with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), especially in males, although some difference was observed among the tested populations. To test whether additional polymorphisms contribute to SLE in Japanese, we systematically analyzed the association of TLR7 with SLE in a Japanese female population.
A case-control association study was conducted on eight tag SNPs in the TLR7 region, including rs3853839, in 344 Japanese females with SLE and 274 healthy female controls.
In addition to rs3853839, two SNPs in intron 2, rs179019 and rs179010, which were in moderate linkage disequilibrium with each other (r2 = 0.53), showed an association with SLE (rs179019: P = 0.016, odds ratio (OR) 2.02, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.15 to 3.54; rs179010: P = 0.018, OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.80 (both under the recessive model)). Conditional logistic regression analysis revealed that the association of the intronic SNPs and the 3' UTR SNP remained significant after we adjusted them for each other. When only the patients and controls carrying the risk genotypes at the 3' UTR SNPpositionwere analyzed, the risk of SLE was significantly increased when the individuals also carried the risk genotypes at both of the intronic SNPs (P = 0.0043, OR 2.45, 95% CI 1.31 to 4.60). Furthermore, the haplotype containing the intronic risk alleles in addition to the 3' UTR risk allele was associated with SLE under the recessive model (P = 0.016, OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.17 to 4.80), but other haplotypes were not associated with SLE.
The TLR7 intronic SNPs rs179019 and rs179010 are associated with SLE independently of the 3' UTR SNP rs3853839 in Japanese women. Our findings support a role of TLR7 in predisposition for SLE in Asian populations.