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1.  RNA-Seq for Enrichment and Analysis of IRF5 Transcript Expression in SLE 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54487.
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.
PMCID: PMC3548774  PMID: 23349905
2.  The IRF5 polymorphism in type 1 diabetes 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2007;44(10):670-672.
The interferon regulatory factor 5 gene (IRF5) has been shown to play a crucial role in harmful immune responses by induction of proinflammatory cytokines. Functional genetic variants associated with increasd IRF5 expression of specific isoforms are associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and it is possible that they may also predispose to other autoimmune disorders. We tested the association of two IRF5 SNPs, correlated with IRF5 expression and SLE risk, in 947 nuclear family trios type 1 diabetes (T1D) using the transmission disequilibrium test. Our results suggest that the functional IRF5 variations do not confer an obvious risk for T1D.
PMCID: PMC2597969  PMID: 17557928
3.  Genetic variants and disease-associated factors contribute to enhanced IRF-5 expression in blood cells of systemic lupus erythematosus patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(2):562-573.
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.
PMCID: PMC3213692  PMID: 20112383
4.  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
5.  Cis-regulation of IRF5 expression is unable to fully account for systemic lupus erythematosus association: analysis of multiple experiments with lymphoblastoid cell lines 
Interferon regulatory factor 5 gene (IRF5) polymorphisms are strongly associated with several diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The association includes risk and protective components. They could be due to combinations of functional polymorphisms and related to cis-regulation of IRF5 expression, but their mechanisms are still uncertain. We hypothesised that thorough testing of the relationships between IRF5 polymorphisms, expression data from multiple experiments and SLE-associated haplotypes might provide useful new information.
Expression data from four published microarray hybridisation experiments with lymphoblastoid cell lines (57 to 181 cell lines) were retrieved. Genotypes of 109 IRF5 polymorphisms, including four known functional polymorphisms, were considered. The best linear regression models accounting for the IRF5 expression data were selected by using a forward entry procedure. SLE-associated IRF5 haplotypes were correlated with the expression data and with the best cis-regulatory models.
A large fraction of variability in IRF5 expression was accounted for by linear regression models with IRF5 polymorphisms, but at a different level in each expression data set. Also, the best models from each expression data set were different, although there was overlap between them. The SNP introducing an early polyadenylation signal, rs10954213, was included in the best models for two of the expression data sets and in good models for the other two data sets. The SLE risk haplotype was associated with high IRF5 expression in the four expression data sets. However, there was also a trend towards high IRF5 expression with some protective and neutral haplotypes, and the protective haplotypes were not associated with IRF5 expression. As a consequence, correlation between the cis-regulatory best models and SLE-associated haplotypes, regarding either the risk or protective component, was poor.
Our analysis indicates that although the SLE risk haplotype of IRF5 is associated with high expression of the gene, cis-regulation of IRF5 expression is not enough to fully account for IRF5 association with SLE susceptibility, which indicates the need to identify additional functional changes in this gene.
PMCID: PMC3218890  PMID: 21627826
systemic lupus erythematosus; IRF5; lymphoblastoid cell lines; cis-regulation; disease susceptibility; linear regression models
6.  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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3288585  PMID: 21968701
7.  IRF5 haplotypes demonstrate diverse serological associations which predict serum interferon alpha activity and explain the majority of the genetic association with systemic lupus erythematosus 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(3):463-468.
High serum interferon α (IFNα) activity is a heritable risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Auto-antibodies found in SLE form immune complexes which can stimulate IFNα production by activating endosomal Toll-like receptors and interferon regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF5. Genetic variation in IRF5 is associated with SLE susceptibility; however, it is unclear how IRF5 functional genetic elements contribute to human disease.
1034 patients with SLE and 989 controls of European ancestry, 555 patients with SLE and 679 controls of African–American ancestry, and 73 patients with SLE of South African ancestry were genotyped at IRF5 polymorphisms, which define major haplotypes. Serum IFNα activity was measured using a functional assay.
In European ancestry subjects, anti-double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and anti-Ro antibodies were each associated with different haplotypes characterised by a different combination of functional genetic elements (OR > 2.56, p >003C; 1.9×10−14 for both). These IRF5 haplotype-auto-antibody associations strongly predicted higher serum IFNα in patients with SLE and explained > 70% of the genetic risk of SLE due to IRF5. In African–American patients with SLE a similar relationship between serology and IFNα was observed, although the previously described European ancestry-risk haplotype was present at admixture proportions in African–American subjects and absent in African patients with SLE.
The authors define a novel risk haplotype of IRF5 that is associated with anti-dsDNA antibodies and show that risk of SLE due to IRF5 genotype is largely dependent upon particular auto-antibodies. This suggests that auto-antibodies are directly pathogenic in human SLE, resulting in increased IFNα in cooperation with particular combinations of IRF5 functional genetic elements.
SLE is a systemic autoimmune disorder affecting multiple organ systems including the skin, musculoskeletal, renal and haematopoietic systems. Humoral autoimmunity is a hallmark of SLE, and patients frequently have circulating auto-antibodies directed against dsDNA, as well as RNA binding proteins (RBP). Anti-RBP autoantibodies include antibodies which recognize Ro, La, Smith (anti-Sm), and ribonucleoprotein (anti-nRNP), collectively referred to as anti-retinol-binding protein). Anti-retinol-binding protein and anti-dsDNA auto-antibodies are rare in the healthy population.1 These auto-antibodies can be present in sera for years preceding the onset of clinical SLE illness2 and are likely pathogenic in SLE.34
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
8.  Functional Regulation of MyD88-Activated Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 by K63-Linked Polyubiquitination ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(24):7296-7308.
Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF-5) plays an important role in the innate antiviral and inflammatory response. Specific IRF-5 haplotypes are associated with dysregulated expression of type I interferons and predisposition to autoimmune disorders. IRF-5 is activated by Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and TLR9 via the MyD88 pathway, where it interacts with both MyD88 and the E3 ubiquitin ligase, TRAF6. To understand the role of these interactions in the regulation of IRF-5, we examined the role of ubiquitination and showed that IRF-5 is subjected to TRAF6-mediated K63-linked ubiquitination, which is important for IRF-5 nuclear translocation and target gene regulation. We show that while the murine IRF-5 and human IRF-5 variant 4 (HuIRF-5v4) and HuIRF-5v5 are ubiquitinated, an IRF-5 bone marrow variant mutant containing an internal deletion of 288 nucleotides is not ubiquitinated. Lysine residues at positions 410 and 411 in a putative TRAF6 consensus binding domain of IRF-5 are the targets of K63-linked ubiquitination. Mutagenesis of these two lysines abolished IRF-5 ubiquitination, nuclear translocation, and the IFNA promoter-inducing activity but not the IRF-5-TRAF6 interaction. Finally, we show that IRAK1 associates with IRF-5 and that this interaction precedes and is required for IRF-5 ubiquitination and activation. Thus, our findings offer a new mechanistic insight into IRF-5 gene induction program through hitherto unknown processes of IRF-5 ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC2593423  PMID: 18824541
9.  IRF5 SLE-Risk Haplotype is Associated with Asymptomatic Serologic Autoimmunity and Progression to Clinical Autoimmunity in Neonatal Lupus Mothers 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2012;64(10):3383-3387.
Genetic variation in interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been associated with risk of developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and this association is largely dependent upon anti-Ro autoantibodies. We studied a unique cohort of anti-Ro positive individuals with diverse diagnoses to determine if IRF5 genotype associated with maternal diagnosis or progression of autoimmunity.
We genotyped haplotype-tagging polymorphisms in IRF5 in 93 European ancestry subjects recruited to the Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus who all had high titer anti-Ro autoantibodies and a child with neonatal lupus (NL), and allele frequencies were compared to non-autoimmune controls. The mothers diagnoses included SLE, Sjogren’s syndrome (SS), undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome (UAS), and asymptomatic.
The SLE-risk haplotype of IRF5 was enriched in all anti-Ro positive subjects except those with SS (OR = 2.55, p=8.8×10−4). Even asymptomatic individuals with anti-Ro antibodies were enriched for the SLE-risk haplotype (OR=2.69, p=0.019). The same haplotype was more prevalent in subjects who were initially asymptomatic, but developed symptomatic SLE during follow up (OR=5.83, p=0.0024). Interestingly, SS was associated with two minor IRF5 haplotypes, and these same haplotypes were decreased in frequency in those with SLE and UAS.
The IRF5 SLE-risk haplotype was associated with anti-Ro antibodies in asymptomatic individuals as well as progression to SLE in asymptomatic anti-Ro positive individuals. SS in NL mothers was associated with different IRF5 haplotypes. These data suggest that IRF5 polymorphisms play a role in serologic autoimmunity in humans and may promote the progression to clinical autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3449035  PMID: 22674082
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon; autoantibodies; neonatal lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome
10.  Association of the IRF5 Risk Haplotype With High Serum Interferon-α Activity in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(8):2481-2487.
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.
PMCID: PMC2621107  PMID: 18668568
11.  Inhibition of Interferon Signaling by the Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Full-Length Viral Interferon Regulatory Factor 2 Protein 
Journal of Virology  2006;80(6):3092-3097.
Interferon (IFN) signal transduction involves interferon regulatory factors (IRF). Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes four IRF homologues: viral IRF 1 (vIRF-1) to vIRF-4. Previous functional studies revealed that the first exon of vIRF-2 inhibited alpha/beta interferon (IFN-α/β) signaling. We now show that full-length vIRF-2 protein, translated from two spliced exons, inhibited both IFN-α- and IFN-λ-driven transactivation of a reporter promoter containing the interferon stimulated response element (ISRE). Transactivation of the ISRE promoter by IRF-1 was negatively regulated by vIRF-2 protein as well. Transactivation of a full-length IFN-β reporter promoter by either IRF-3 or IRF-1, but not IRF-7, was also inhibited by vIRF-2 protein. Thus, vIRF-2 protein is an interferon induction antagonist that acts pleiotropically, presumably facilitating KSHV infection and dissemination in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1395420  PMID: 16501120
12.  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
13.  Novel identification of the IRF7 region as an anticentromere autoantibody propensity locus in systemic sclerosis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2011;71(1):114-119.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are related chronic autoimmune diseases of complex aetiology in which the interferon (IFN) pathway plays a key role. Recent studies have reported an association between IRF7 and SLE which confers a risk to autoantibody production. A study was undertaken to investigate whether the IRF7 genomic region is also involved in susceptibility to SSc and the main clinical features.
Two case-control sets of Caucasian origin from the USA and Spain, comprising a total of 2316 cases of SSc and 2347 healthy controls, were included in the study. Five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the PHRF1-IRF7-CDHR5 locus were genotyped using TaqMan allelic discrimination technology. A meta-analysis was performed to test the overall effect of these genetic variants on SSc.
Four out of five analysed SNPs were Significantly associated with the presence of anticentromere autoantibodies (ACA) in the patients with SSc in the combined analysis (rs1131665: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.78; rs4963128: pFDR=6.14 × 10−4, OR=0.79; rs702966: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.82; and rs2246614: pFDR=3.83 × 10−3, OR=0.83). Significant p values were also obtained when the disease was tested globally; however, the statistical significance was lost when the ACA-positive patients were excluded from the study, suggesting that these associations rely on ACA positivity. Conditional logistic regression and allelic combination analyses suggested that the functional IRF7 SNP rs1131665 is the most likely causal variant.
The results show that variation in the IRF7 genomic region is associated with the presence of ACA in patients with SSc, supporting other evidence that this locus represents a common risk factor for autoantibody production in autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC3369428  PMID: 21926187
14.  Protection of Irf5-deficient mice from pristane-induced lupus involves altered cytokine production and class switching 
European journal of immunology  2012;42(6):1477-1487.
Polymorphisms in the transcription factor interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) have been identified that show strong association with increased risk of developing the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A potential pathologic role for IRF5 in SLE development is supported by the fact that increased IRF5 mRNA and protein abundance are observed in primary blood cells of SLE patients that correlate with increased risk of developing the disease. Here, we demonstrate that IRF5 is required for pristane-induced SLE via its ability to control multiple facets of autoimmunity. We show that IRF5 has a distinct influence on pathological hypergammaglobulinemia and provide evidence for its role in regulating IgG1 class switching and antigen specificity. Examination of in vivo cytokine expression (and autoantibody production) identified an imbalance in Irf5−/− mice favoring Th2 polarization. In addition, we provide clear evidence that loss of Irf5 significantly weakens the in vivo type I IFN signature critical for disease pathogenesis in this model of murine lupus. Together, these findings demonstrate the global effect that IRF5 has on autoimmunity and provides significant new insight into how overexpression of IRF5 in blood cells of SLE patients may contribute to disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3684952  PMID: 22678902
interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5, IRF-5); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); autoantibody; type I interferon; Th2
15.  Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 Is Required For Disease Development In The FcγRIIB−/−Yaa and FcγRIIB−/− Mouse Models Of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus 1 
Polymorphisms in the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) are strongly associated in human genetic studies with an increased risk of developing the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus. However, the biological role of IRF5 in lupus pathogenesis has not previously been tested in an animal model. In this study we show that IRF5 is absolutely required for disease development in the FcγRIIB−/−Yaa and FcγRIIB−/− lupus models. In contrast to IRF5-sufficient FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice, IRF5-deficient FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice do not develop lupus manifestations and have a phenotype comparable to wildtype mice. Strikingly, full expression of IRF5 is required for the development of autoimmunity as IRF5-heterozygotes had dramatically reduced disease. One effect of IRF5 is to induce the production of the type I interferon IFN-α, a cytokine implicated in lupus pathogenesis. To address the mechanism by which IRF5 promotes disease, we evaluated FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice lacking the type I interferon receptor IFNAR1. Unlike the IRF5-deficient and IRF5-heterozygous FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice, IFNAR1-deficient FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice maintained a substantial level of residual disease. Furthermore, in FcγRIIB−/− mice lacking Yaa, IRF5-deficiency also markedly reduced disease manifestations indicating that the beneficial effects of IRF5 deficiency in FcγRIIB−/−Yaa mice are not due only to inhibition of the enhanced TLR7 signaling associated with the Yaa mutation. Overall, we demonstrate that IRF5 plays an essential role in lupus pathogenesis in murine models and that this is mediated through pathways beyond that of type I interferon production.
PMCID: PMC2858062  PMID: 20007534
16.  Dual regulation of IRF4 function in T and B cells is required for the coordination of T–B cell interactions and the prevention of autoimmunity 
Female mice lacking DEF6 and SWAP70 develop a lupus-like syndrome through dysregulation of IRF4 in activated B cells and plasma cells.
Effective humoral responses to protein antigens require the precise execution of carefully timed differentiation programs in both T and B cell compartments. Disturbances in this process underlie the pathogenesis of many autoimmune disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) is induced upon the activation of T and B cells and serves critical functions. In CD4+ T helper cells, IRF4 plays an essential role in the regulation of IL-21 production, whereas in B cells it controls class switch recombination and plasma cell differentiation. IRF4 function in T helper cells can be modulated by its interaction with regulatory protein DEF6, a molecule that shares a high degree of homology with only one other protein, SWAP-70. Here, we demonstrate that on a C57BL/6 background the absence of both DEF6 and SWAP-70 leads to the development of a lupus-like disease in female mice, marked by simultaneous deregulation of CD4+ T cell IL-21 production and increased IL-21 B cell responsiveness. We furthermore show that DEF6 and SWAP-70 are differentially used at distinct stages of B cell differentiation to selectively control the ability of IRF4 to regulate IL-21 responsiveness in a stage-specific manner. Collectively, these data provide novel insights into the mechanisms that normally couple and coordinately regulate T and B cell responses to ensure tight control of productive T–B cell interactions.
PMCID: PMC3302237  PMID: 22370718
17.  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
18.  Genetic Variation at the IRF7/PHRF1 Locus Is Associated With Autoantibody Profile and Serum Interferon-α Activity in Lupus Patients 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2010;62(2):553-561.
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.
PMCID: PMC2832192  PMID: 20112359
19.  Activation of Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 by Site Specific Phosphorylation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33098.
The cellular defense to infection depends on accurate activation of transcription factors and expression of select innate immunity genes. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), a risk factor for systemic lupus erythematosus, is activated in response to pathogen recognition receptor engagement and downstream effector molecules. We find the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain containing protein 2 (NOD2) receptor to be a significant activator of IRF5. Phosphorylation is key to the regulation of IRF5, but the precise phosphorylation sites in IRF5 remained to be identified. We used mass spectrometry to identify for the first time specific residues that are phosphorylated in response to TANK-binding kinase-1 (TBK-1), tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6), or receptor interacting protein 2 (RIP2). RIP2, a kinase known to function downstream of NOD2, was the most effective activator of IRF5-regulated gene expression. To determine if the phosphorylated residues are required or sufficient for IRF5 activity, aspartic acid phosphomimetic substitutions or inactivating alanine substitutions were tested. Phosphorylation of carboxyl serines 451 and 462 appear the primary trigger of IRF5 function in nuclear accumulation, transcription, and apoptosis. Results indicate polyubiquitination of IRF5 does not play a major role in its transcriptional activity, and that ubiquitination and phosphorylation are independent modifications.
PMCID: PMC3297630  PMID: 22412986
20.  Monocytes from Irf5−/− mice have an intrinsic defect in their response to pristane-induced lupus‡ 
The transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been identified as a human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility gene by numerous joint linkage and genome-wide association studies. Although IRF5 expression is significantly elevated in primary blood cells of SLE patients, it is not yet known how IRF5 contributes to SLE pathogenesis. Recent data from mouse models of lupus indicate a critical role for IRF5 in the production of pathogenic autoantibodies and the expression of Th2 cytokines and type I IFN. In the current study, we examined the mechanism(s) by which loss of Irf5 protects mice from pristane-induced lupus at early time points of disease development. We demonstrate that Irf5 is required for Ly6C(hi) monocyte trafficking to the peritoneal cavity (PC), which is believed to be one of the initial key events leading to lupus pathogenesis in this model. Chemotaxis assays using peritoneal lavage from pristane-injected Irf5+/+ and Irf5−/− littermates support an intrinsic defect in Irf5−/− monocytes. We found the expression of chemokine receptors CXCR4 and CCR2 to be dysregulated on Irf5−/− monocytes and less responsive to their respective ligands, CXCL12 and CCL2. Bone marrow reconstitution experiments further supported an intrinsic defect in Irf5−/− monocytes since Irf5+/+ monocytes were preferentially recruited to the PC in response to pristane. Together, these findings demonstrate an intrinsic role for IRF5 in the response of monocytes to pristane, and their recruitment to the primary site of inflammation that is thought to trigger lupus onset in this experimental model of SLE.
PMCID: PMC3454479  PMID: 22933628
21.  Four Promoters of IRF5 Respond Distinctly to Stimuli and are Affected by Autoimmune-Risk Polymorphisms 
Introduction: Autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis affect millions of people worldwide. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) contains polymorphisms associated with these autoimmune diseases. Two of these functional polymorphisms are found upstream of the IRF5 gene. rs2004640, which is a single nucleotide polymorphism and the CGGGG insertion/deletion (indel) were studied. IRF5 uses four different promoters for its four first exons: 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D. Each promoter was analyzed, including functional differences due to the autoimmune-risk polymorphisms.
Results: IRF5 promoters were analyzed using ChIP-Seq data (ENCODE database) and the FactorBook database to define transcription factor binding sites. To verify promoter activity, the promoters were cloned into luciferase plasmids. Each construct exhibited luciferase activity. Exons 1A and 1D contain putative PU.1 and NFkB binding sites. Imiquimod, a Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) ligand, was used to activate these transcription factors. IRF5 levels were doubled after imiquimod treatment (p < 0.001), with specific increases in the 1A promoter (2.2-fold, p = 0.03) and 1D promoter (2.8-fold, p = 0.03). A putative binding site for p53, which affects apoptosis, was found in the promoter for exon 1B. However, site-directed mutagenesis of the p53 site showed no effect in a reporter assay.
Conclusion: The IRF5 exon 1B promoter has been characterized, and the responses of each IRF5 promoter to TLR7 stimulation have been determined. Changes in promoter activity and gene expression are likely due to specific and distinct transcription factors that bind to each promoter. Since high expression of IRF5 contributes to the development of autoimmune disease, understanding the source of increased IRF5 levels is key to understanding autoimmune etiology.
PMCID: PMC3819785  PMID: 24223576
IRF5; alternative promoters; autoimmune disease risk; interferon; systemic lupus erythematosus
22.  Upregulation of a spliced variant of human interferon regulatory factor 3 through binding of the transcription factor Sp1 to the promoter 
Biomedical Reports  2013;2(1):142-146.
Interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) plays an important role in host defense against viral and bacterial infection. IRF-3 includes a variety of spliced variants, which may regulate the transcription of IRF-3. We previously identified two novel IRF-3 spliced variants, Int2V1 and Int2V2, starting from intron 2 of the wild-type of IRF-3. However, the mechanism through which the IRF-3 spliced variants regulate transcription has not been elucidated. In this study, we demonstrated that the transcription factor Sp1 upregulates the basal transcriptional activity of IRF-3 Int2V1. By transient transfection analysis, we demonstrated that the overexpression of Sp1 led to positive regulation, whereas knocking down of the endogenous Sp1 resulted in repression of IRF-3 promoter activity. Electrophoretic gel mobility shift assays and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated that Sp1 interacted with the IRF-3 promoter in vitro and in vivo. These results suggested that Sp1 positively regulated the transcription of a spliced variant of IRF-3 through directly binding to the Sp1 consensus binding site.
PMCID: PMC3917023  PMID: 24649086
interferon regulatory factor 3; spliced variant; transcription; Sp1; reporter gene assay
23.  Essential Role of Interferon Regulatory Factor 3 in Direct Activation of RANTES Chemokine Transcription 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1999;19(2):959-966.
Localized and systemic cytokine production in virus-infected cells play an important role in the outcome of viral infection and pathogenicity. Activation of the interferon regulatory factors (IRF) in turn is a critical mediator of cytokine gene transcription. Recent studies have focused on the 55-kDa IRF-3 gene product as a direct transcriptional regulator of type 1 interferon (IFN-α and IFN-β) activation in response to virus infection. Virus infection induces phosphorylation of IRF-3 on specific C-terminal serine residues and permits cytoplasmic-to-nuclear translocation of IRF-3, activation of DNA binding and transactivation potential, and association with the CBP/p300 coactivator. We previously generated constitutively active [IRF-3(5D)] and dominant-negative forms of IRF-3 that control IFN-β and IFN-α gene expression. In an effort to characterize the range of immunoregulatory genes controlled by IRF-3, we now demonstrate that endogenous human RANTES gene transcription is directly induced in tetracycline-inducible IRF-3(5D)-expressing cells or paramyxovirus-infected cells. We also show that a dominant-negative IRF-3 mutant inhibits virus-induced expression of the RANTES promoter. Specific mutagenesis of overlapping ISRE-like sites located between nucleotides −123 and −96 in the RANTES promoter reduces virus-induced and IRF-3-dependent activation. These studies broaden the range of IRF-3 immunoregulatory target genes to include at least one member of the chemokine superfamily.
PMCID: PMC116027  PMID: 9891032
24.  The Prognostic Significance of IRF8 Transcripts in Adult Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70812.
Interferon regulatory factor 8 (IRF8) is a transcription factor that plays a critical role in normal hematopoiesis, such that disruption of IRF8 activity promotes leukemogenesis. We and others have identified aberrant expression of IRF8 transcripts, including novel splice variants, in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but studies have not investigated the prognostic significance of these transcripts. Therefore, we developed and optimized quantitative expression assays for both, the wild type, or the reference sequence (WT-IRF8) and novel splice variants (SV-IRF8). These assays were used to quantify IRF8 transcript levels in 194 adult patients with AML, and multivariate analyses investigated the prognostic significance of these expression levels. After adjusting for known prognostic factors, expression levels of WT- or SV-IRF8 transcripts were not significantly associated with complete responses or overall survival. However, increased expression of WT-IRF8 was associated with decreased relapse-free survival (RFS) in both univariate (P = 0.010) and multivariate (P = 0.019) analyses. Similarly, increased expression of SV-IRF8 was associated with a decreased RFS (univariate, P = 0.026 and multivariate, P = 0.021). These studies show for the first time that WT-IRF8 and SV-IRF8 are independent adverse prognostic factors for patients with AML. Additional studies are planned to examine the prognostic significance of IRF8 transcripts in other populations of AML patients.
PMCID: PMC3743845  PMID: 23967110
25.  Identification of three new cis-regulatory IRF5 polymorphisms: in vitro studies 
Polymorphisms in the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene are associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases through independent risk and protective haplotypes. Several functional polymorphisms are already known, but they do not account for the protective haplotypes that are tagged by the minor allele of rs729302.
Polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium (LD) with rs729302 or particularly associated with IRF5 expression were selected for functional screening, which involved electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) and reporter gene assays.
A total of 54 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the 5' region of IRF5 were genotyped. Twenty-four of them were selected for functional screening because of their high LD with rs729302 or protective haplotypes. In addition, two polymorphisms were selected for their prominent association with IRF5 expression. Seven of these twenty-six polymorphisms showed reproducible allele differences in EMSA. The seven were subsequently analyzed in gene reporter assays, and three of them showed significant differences between their two alleles: rs729302, rs13245639 and rs11269962. Haplotypes including the cis-regulatory polymorphisms correlated very well with IRF5 mRNA expression in an analysis based on previous data.
We have found that three polymorphisms in LD with the protective haplotypes of IRF5 have differential allele effects in EMSA and in reporter gene assays. Identification of these cis-regulatory polymorphisms will allow more accurate analysis of transcriptional regulation of IRF5 expression, more powerful genetic association studies and deeper insight into the role of IRF5 in disease susceptibility.
PMCID: PMC3978921  PMID: 23941291

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