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1.  Bim Nuclear Translocation and Inactivation by Viral Interferon Regulatory Factor 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(8):e1001031.
Viral replication efficiency is in large part governed by the ability of viruses to counteract pro-apoptotic signals induced by infection of the host cell. Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) uses several strategies to block the host's innate antiviral defenses via interference with interferon and apoptotic signaling. Contributors include the four viral interferon regulatory factors (vIRFs 1–4), which function in dominant negative fashion to block cellular IRF activities in addition to targeting IRF signaling-induced proteins such as p53 and inhibiting other inducers of apoptosis such as TGFβ receptor-activated Smad transcription factors. Here we identify direct targeting by vIRF-1 of BH3-only pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim, a key negative regulator of HHV-8 replication, to effect its inactivation via nuclear translocation. vIRF-1-mediated relocalization of Bim was identified in transfected cells, by both immunofluorescence assay and western analysis of fractionated cell extracts. Also, co-localization of vIRF-1 and Bim was detected in nuclei of lytically infected endothelial cells. In vitro co-precipitation assays using purified vIRF-1 and Bim revealed direct interaction between the proteins, and Bim-binding residues of vIRF-1 were mapped by deletion and point mutagenesis. Generation and experimental utilization of Bim-refractory vIRF-1 variants revealed the importance of vIRF-1:Bim interaction, specifically, in pro-replication and anti-apoptotic activity of vIRF-1. Furthermore, blocking of the interaction with cell-permeable peptide corresponding to the Bim-binding region of vIRF-1 confirmed the relevance of vIRF-1:Bim association to vIRF-1 pro-replication activity. To our knowledge, this is the first report of an IRF protein that interacts with a Bcl-2 family member and of nuclear sequestration of Bim or any other member of the family as a means of inactivation. The data presented reveal a novel mechanism utilized by a virus to control replication-induced apoptosis and suggest that inhibitory targeting of vIRF-1:Bim interaction may provide an effective antiviral strategy.
Author Summary
Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) is a pathogen associated with cancers Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), an endothelial cell disease, and B cell malignancies primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. KS is particularly prevalent amongst HIV-positive populations in Africa and is a major health concern. Virus productive replication, in addition to latency, is important for maintaining viral load within the host and also for KS pathogenesis. Essential to HHV-8 and other virus replication is the control of innate host defenses, which comprise stress-sensing cellular signaling pathways that result ultimately in programmed cell death (apoptosis). Here we identify a novel mechanism whereby a viral protein, viral interferon regulatory factor-1 (vIRF-1), mediates inhibition of a stress sensor and initiator of apoptosis, Bim, by inducing its translocation to the cell nucleus and thereby sequestration away from the cytoplasmic compartment where it exerts its pro-death activity. We show that vIRF-1:Bim interaction is necessary for efficient HHV-8 productive replication and that it can be blocked using a cell-permeable antagonist of vIRF-1:Bim binding. Our data not only identify previously unsuspected mechanisms of Bim inactivation and vIRF-1 function, but suggest that inhibitory targeting of vIRF-1 interaction with Bim may be of therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC2916877  PMID: 20700448
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Multiple Regulatory Domains of IRF-5 Control Activation, Cellular Localization, and Induction of Chemokines That Mediate Recruitment of T Lymphocytes 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(16):5721-5740.
Transcription factors of the interferon regulatory factor (IRF) family have been identified as critical mediators of early inflammatory gene transcription in infected cells. We recently determined that, besides IRF-3 and IRF-7, IRF-5 serves as a direct transducer of virus-mediated signaling. In contrast to that mediated by the other two IRFs, IRF-5-mediated activation is virus specific. We show that, in addition to Newcastle disease virus (NDV) infection, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection activates IRF-5, leading to the induction of IFNA gene subtypes that are distinct from subtypes induced by NDV. The IRF-5-mediated stimulation of inflammatory genes is not limited to IFNA since in BJAB/IRF-5-expressing cells IRF-5 stimulates transcription of RANTES, macrophage inflammatory protein 1β, monocyte chemotactic protein 1, interleukin-8, and I-309 genes in a virus-specific manner. By transient- transfection assay, we identified constitutive-activation (amino acids [aa] 410 to 489) and autoinhibitory (aa 490 to 539) domains in the IRF-5 polypeptide. We identified functional nuclear localization signals (NLS) in the amino and carboxyl termini of IRF-5 and showed that both of these NLS are sufficient for nuclear translocation and retention in infected cells. Furthermore, we demonstrated that serine residues 477 and 480 play critical roles in the response to NDV infection. Mutation of these residues from serine to alanine dramatically decreased phosphorylation and resulted in a substantial loss of IRF-5 transactivation in infected cells. Thus, this study defines the regulatory phosphorylation sites that control the activity of IRF-5 in NDV-infected cells and provides further insight into the structure and function of IRF-5. It also shows that the range of IRF-5 immunoregulatory target genes includes members of the cytokine and chemokine superfamilies.
PMCID: PMC133975  PMID: 12138184
5.  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
6.  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
7.  The IRF-3 Transcription Factor Mediates Sendai Virus-Induced Apoptosis 
Journal of Virology  2000;74(8):3781-3792.
Virus infection of target cells can result in different biological outcomes: lytic infection, cellular transformation, or cell death by apoptosis. Cells respond to virus infection by the activation of specific transcription factors involved in cytokine gene regulation and cell growth control. The ubiquitously expressed interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) transcription factor is directly activated following virus infection through posttranslational modification. Phosphorylation of specific C-terminal serine residues results in IRF-3 dimerization, nuclear translocation, and activation of DNA-binding and transactivation potential. Once activated, IRF-3 transcriptionally up regulates alpha/beta interferon genes, the chemokine RANTES, and potentially other genes that inhibit viral infection. We previously generated constitutively active [IRF-3(5D)] and dominant negative (IRF-3 ΔN) forms of IRF-3 that control target gene expression. In an effort to characterize the growth regulatory properties of IRF-3, we observed that IRF-3 is a mediator of paramyxovirus-induced apoptosis. Expression of the constitutively active form of IRF-3 is toxic, preventing the establishment of stably transfected cells. By using a tetracycline-inducible system, we show that induction of IRF-3(5D) alone is sufficient to induce apoptosis in human embryonic kidney 293 and human Jurkat T cells as measured by DNA laddering, terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling assay, and analysis of DNA content by flow cytometry. Wild-type IRF-3 expression augments paramyxovirus-induced apoptosis, while expression of IRF-3 ΔN blocks virus-induced apoptosis. In addition, we demonstrate an important role of caspases 8, 9, and 3 in IRF-3-induced apoptosis. These results suggest that IRF-3, in addition to potently activating cytokine genes, regulates apoptotic signalling following virus infection.
PMCID: PMC111887  PMID: 10729153
8.  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
9.  Irf8-Regulated Genomic Responses Drive Pathological Inflammation during Cerebral Malaria 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003491.
Interferon Regulatory Factor 8 (IRF8) is required for development, maturation and expression of anti-microbial defenses of myeloid cells. BXH2 mice harbor a severely hypomorphic allele at Irf8 (Irf8R294C) that causes susceptibility to infection with intracellular pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We report that BXH2 are completely resistant to the development of cerebral malaria (ECM) following Plasmodium berghei ANKA infection. Comparative transcriptional profiling of brain RNA as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) was used to identify IRF8-regulated genes whose expression is associated with pathological acute neuroinflammation. Genes increased by infection were strongly enriched for IRF8 binding sites, suggesting that IRF8 acts as a transcriptional activator in inflammatory programs. These lists were enriched for myeloid-specific pathways, including interferon responses, antigen presentation and Th1 polarizing cytokines. We show that inactivation of several of these downstream target genes (including the Irf8 transcription partner Irf1) confers protection against ECM. ECM-resistance in Irf8 and Irf1 mutants is associated with impaired myeloid and lymphoid cells function, including production of IL12p40 and IFNγ. We note strong overlap between genes bound and regulated by IRF8 during ECM and genes regulated in the lungs of M. tuberculosis infected mice. This IRF8-dependent network contains several genes recently identified as risk factors in acute and chronic human inflammatory conditions. We report a common core of IRF8-bound genes forming a critical inflammatory host-response network.
Author Summary
Cerebral malaria is a severe and often lethal complication from infection with Plasmodium falciparum which is driven in part by pathological host inflammatory response to parasitized red cells′ adherence in the brain microvasculature. However, the pathways that initiate and amplify this pathological neuroinflammation are not well understood. As susceptibility to cerebral malaria is variable and has been shown to be partially heritable, we have studied this from a genetic perspective using a mouse model of infection with P. berghei which induces experimental cerebral malaria (ECM). Here we show that mice bearing mutations in the myeloid transcription factor IRF8 and its heterodimerization partner IRF1 are completely resistant to ECM. We have identified the genes and associated networks that are activated by IRF8 during ECM. Loss-of-function mutations of several IRF8 targets are also shown to be protective. Parallel analysis of lungs infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis show that IRF8-associated core pathways are also engaged during tuberculosis where they play a protective role. This contrast illustrates the balancing act required by the immune system to respond to pathogens and highlights a lynchpin role for IRF8 in both. Finally, several genes in these networks have been individually associated with chronic or acute inflammatory conditions in humans.
PMCID: PMC3708918  PMID: 23853600
10.  The Ebola Virus VP35 Protein Inhibits Activation of Interferon Regulatory Factor 3 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(14):7945-7956.
The Ebola virus VP35 protein was previously found to act as an interferon (IFN) antagonist which could complement growth of influenza delNS1 virus, a mutant influenza virus lacking the influenza virus IFN antagonist protein, NS1. The Ebola virus VP35 could also prevent the virus- or double-stranded RNA-mediated transcriptional activation of both the beta IFN (IFN-β) promoter and the IFN-stimulated ISG54 promoter (C. Basler et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97:12289-12294, 2000). We now show that VP35 inhibits virus infection-induced transcriptional activation of IFN regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3)-responsive mammalian promoters and that VP35 does not block signaling from the IFN-α/β receptor. The ability of VP35 to inhibit this virus-induced transcription correlates with its ability to block activation of IRF-3, a cellular transcription factor of central importance in initiating the host cell IFN response. We demonstrate that VP35 blocks the Sendai virus-induced activation of two promoters which can be directly activated by IRF-3, namely, the ISG54 promoter and the ISG56 promoter. Further, expression of VP35 prevents the IRF-3-dependent activation of the IFN-α4 promoter in response to viral infection. The inhibition of IRF-3 appears to occur through an inhibition of IRF-3 phosphorylation. VP35 blocks virus-induced IRF-3 phosphorylation and subsequent IRF-3 dimerization and nuclear translocation. Consistent with these observations, Ebola virus infection of Vero cells activated neither transcription from the ISG54 promoter nor nuclear accumulation of IRF-3. These data suggest that in Ebola virus-infected cells, VP35 inhibits the induction of antiviral genes, including the IFN-β gene, by blocking IRF-3 activation.
PMCID: PMC161945  PMID: 12829834
11.  TRIpartite Motif 21 (TRIM21) Differentially Regulates the Stability of Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 (IRF5) Isoforms 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e103609.
IRF5 is a member of the Interferon Regulatory Factor (IRF) family of transcription factors activated downstream of the Toll-Like receptors (TLRs). Polymorphisms in IRF5 have been shown to be associated with the autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune conditions, suggesting a central role for IRF5 in the regulation of the immune response. Four different IRF5 isoforms originate due to alternative splicing and to the presence or absence of a 30 nucleotide insertion in IRF5 exon 6. Since the polymorphic region disturbs a PEST domain, a region associated with protein degradation, we hypothesized that the isoforms bearing the insertion might have increased stability, thus explaining the association of individual IRF5 isoforms with SLE. As the E3 ubiquitin ligase TRIpartite Motif 21 (TRIM21) has been shown to regulate the stability and hence activity of members of the IRF family, we investigated whether IRF5 is subjected to regulation by TRIM21 and whether dysregulation of this mechanism could explain the association of IRF5 with SLE. Our results show that IRF5 is degraded following TLR7 activation and that TRIM21 is involved in this process. Comparison of the individual IRF5 variants demonstrates that isoforms generated by alternative splicing are resistant to TRIM21-mediated degradation following TLR7 stimulation, thus providing a functional link between isoforms expression and stability/activity which contributes to explain the association of IRF5 with SLE.
PMCID: PMC4118895  PMID: 25084355
12.  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
13.  Rotavirus NSP1 Mediates Degradation of Interferon Regulatory Factors through Targeting of the Dimerization Domain 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(17):9813-9821.
Rotavirus nonstructural protein NSP1 can inhibit expression of interferon (IFN) and IFN-stimulated gene products by inducing proteasome-mediated degradation of IFN-regulatory factors (IRFs), including IRF3, IRF5, and IRF7. All IRF proteins share an N-terminal DNA-binding domain (DBD), and IRF3, IRF5, and IRF7 contain a similar C-proximal IRF association domain (IAD) that mediates IRF dimerization. An autoinhibitory domain (ID) at the extreme C terminus interacts with the IAD, burying residues necessary for IRF dimerization. Phosphorylation of serine/threonine residues in the ID induces charge repulsions that unmask the IAD, enabling IRF dimerization and subsequent nuclear translocation. To define the region of IRF proteins targeted for degradation by NSP1, we generated IRF3 and IRF7 truncation mutants and transiently expressed each with simian SA11-4F NSP1. These assays indicated that the IAD represented a necessary and sufficient target for degradation. Because NSP1 did not mediate degradation of truncated forms of the IAD, NSP1 likely requires a structurally intact IAD for recognition and targeting of IRF proteins. IRF9, which contains an IAD-like region that directs interactions with signal inducer and activator of transcription (STAT) proteins, was also targeted for degradation by NSP1, while IRF1, which lacks an IAD, was not. Analysis of mutant forms of IRF3 unable to undergo dimerization or that were constitutively dimeric showed that both were targeted for degradation by NSP1. These results indicate that SA11-4F NSP1 can induce degradation of inactive and activated forms of IAD-containing IRF proteins (IRF3 to IRF9), allowing a multipronged attack on IFN-based pathways that promote antiviral innate and adaptive immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3754143  PMID: 23824805
14.  Association of IRF5 polymorphisms with activation of the interferon α pathway 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(3):611-617.
The genetic association of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility has been convincingly established. To gain understanding of the effect of IRF5 variation in individuals without SLE, a study was undertaken to examine whether such genetic variation predisposes to activation of the interferon α (IFNα) pathway.
Using a computer simulated approach, 14 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes of IRF5 were tested for association with mRNA expression levels of IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible genes and chemokines in lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from individuals of European (CEU), Han Chinese (CHB), Japanese (JPT) and Yoruba Nigerian (YRI) backgrounds. IFN-inducible gene expression was assessed in LCLs from children with SLE in the presence and absence of IFNα stimulation.
The major alleles of IRF5 rs13242262 and rs2280714 were associated with increased IRF5 mRNA expression levels in the CEU, CHB+JPT and YRI samples. The minor allele of IRF5 rs10488631 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU (pc=0.0005, 0.01 and 0.04, respectively). A haplotype containing these risk alleles of rs13242262, rs10488631 and rs2280714 was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression in CEU LCLs. In vitro studies showed specific activation of IFN-inducible genes in LCLs by IFNα.
SNPs of IRF5 in healthy individuals of a number of ethnic groups were associated with increased mRNA expression of IRF5. In European-derived individuals, an IRF5 haplotype was associated with increased IRF5, IFNα and IFN-inducible chemokine expression. Identifying individuals genetically predisposed to increased IFN-inducible gene and chemokine expression may allow early detection of risk for SLE.
PMCID: PMC3135414  PMID: 19854706
15.  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
16.  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
17.  Interferon Regulatory Factor 7 Regulates Expression of Epstein-Barr Virus Latent Membrane Protein 1: a Regulatory Circuit 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(17):9359-9368.
We have shown previously that interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7), a multifunctional protein intimately involved in latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, is induced as well as activated by EBV latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), the principal EBV oncoprotein. Since the LMP1 promoter (LMP1p) contains an interferon-stimulated response element (ISRE), we hypothesized that IRF7 might be able to regulate LMP1 expression and thus participate in a regulatory circuit between these two genes. In this study, IRF7 was shown first to activate LMP1p in transient transfection assays. Compared with EBV nuclear antigen 2 (EBNA2), the most potent viral transactivator of LMP1p, IRF7 has a lesser effect (approximately 10% that of EBNA2) on induction of LMP1p. Study with IRF7 deletion mutants showed that IRF7 functional domains have similar effects on both the beta interferon (IFN-β) and LMP1 promoters in BJAB and 293 cells, and study with IRF7 phosphomimetic mutants showed that IRF7 phosphorylation may be involved in the activation of these two promoters. Further, the ISRE in LMP1p responds to IRF7 induction and IRF7 binds to this element. In the EBV-positive cell line P3HR1, which lacks the complete EBNA2 and EBV-encoded leader protein genes and hence expresses low-level LMP1, IRF7 alone can notably increase the endogenous LMP1 mRNA and protein levels. These results indicate that LMP1 is regulated by this host cell gene in addition to the viral factor, EBNA2, and may help to explain how LMP1 is expressed in type II latency in the absence of EBNA2. Moreover, IRF7 can regulate a viral gene in addition to a host cellular gene such as the IFN-β gene. Together with the previous data that LMP1 can induce IRF7 expression and facilitate IRF7 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation, these results suggest a positive regulatory circuit between IRF7 and LMP1.
PMCID: PMC187426  PMID: 12915551
18.  Association of Functional Polymorphisms in Interferon Regulatory Factor 2 (IRF2) with Susceptibility to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Case-Control Association Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109764.
Interferon regulatory factor 2 (IRF2) negatively regulates type I interferon (IFN) responses, while it plays a role in induction of Th1 differentiation. Previous linkage and association studies in European-American populations suggested genetic role of IRF2 in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); however, this observation has not yet been confirmed. No studies have been reported in the Asian populations. Here we investigated whether IRF2 polymorphisms contribute to susceptibility to SLE in a Japanese population. Association study of 46 IRF2 tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) detected association of an intronic SNP, rs13146124, with SLE. When the association was analyzed in 834 Japanese patients with SLE and 817 healthy controls, rs13146124 T was significantly increased in SLE compared with healthy controls (dominant model, P = 5.4×10−4, Bonferroni-corrected P [Pc] = 0.026, odds ratio [OR] 1.48, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.18–1.85). To find causal SNPs, resequencing was performed by next-generation sequencing. Twelve polymorphisms in linkage disequilibrium with rs13146124 (r2: 0.30–1.00) were identified, among which significant association was observed for rs66801661 (allele model, P = 7.7×10−4, Pc = 0.037, OR 1.53, 95%CI 1.19–1.96) and rs62339994 (dominant model, P = 9.0×10−4, Pc = 0.043, OR 1.46, 95%CI 1.17–1.82). The haplotype carrying both of the risk alleles (rs66801661A–rs62339994A) was significantly increased in SLE (P = 9.9×10−4), while the haplotype constituted by both of the non-risk alleles (rs66801661G–rs62339994G) was decreased (P = 0.0020). A reporter assay was carried out to examine the effect of the IRF2 haplotypes on the transcriptional activity, and association of the IRF2 risk haplotype with higher transcriptional activity was detected in Jurkat T cells under IFNγ stimulation (Tukey's test, P = 1.2×10−4). In conclusion, our observations supported the association of IRF2 with susceptibility to SLE, and the risk haplotype was suggested to be associated with transcriptional activation of IRF2.
PMCID: PMC4186848  PMID: 25285625
19.  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
20.  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
21.  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
22.  Structural and Functional Analysis of Interferon Regulatory Factor 3: Localization of the Transactivation and Autoinhibitory Domains 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1999;19(4):2465-2474.
The interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF-3) gene encodes a 55-kDa protein which is expressed constitutively in all tissues. In unstimulated cells, IRF-3 is present in an inactive cytoplasmic form; following Sendai virus infection, IRF-3 is posttranslationally modified by protein phosphorylation at multiple serine and threonine residues located in the carboxy terminus. Virus-induced phosphorylation of IRF-3 leads to cytoplasmic to nuclear translocation of phosphorylated IRF-3, association with the transcriptional coactivator CBP/p300, and stimulation of DNA binding and transcriptional activities of virus-inducible genes. Using yeast and mammalian one-hybrid analysis, we now demonstrate that an extended, atypical transactivation domain is located in the C terminus of IRF-3 between amino acids (aa) 134 and 394. We also show that the C-terminal domain of IRF-3 located between aa 380 and 427 participates in the autoinhibition of IRF-3 activity via an intramolecular association with the N-terminal region between aa 98 and 240. After Sendai virus infection, an intermolecular association between IRF-3 proteins is detected, demonstrating a virus-dependent formation of IRF-3 homodimers; this interaction is also observed in the absence of virus infection with a constitutively activated form of IRF-3. Substitution of the C-terminal Ser-Thr phosphorylation sites with the phosphomimetic Asp in the region ISNSHPLSLTSDQ between amino acids 395 and 407 [IRF-3(5D)], but not the adjacent S385 and S386 residues, generates a constitutively activated DNA binding form of IRF-3. In contrast, substitution of S385 and S386 with either Ala or Asp inhibits both DNA binding and transactivation activities of the IRF-3(5D) protein. These studies thus define the transactivation domain of IRF-3, two domains that participate in the autoinhibition of IRF-3 activity, and the regulatory phosphorylation sites controlling IRF-3 dimer formation, DNA binding activity, and association with the CBP/p300 coactivator.
PMCID: PMC84039  PMID: 10082512
23.  Synoviocyte innate responses: II. Pivotal role of interferon regulatory factor 3 
Innate immune responses likely contribute to synovial inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Of the innate receptors implicated in RA, TLR3 activates several signaling cascades, including -interferon regulatory factors 3 and 7 (IRF), resulting in production of viral-stress IFN-inducible genes. The present study was designed to investigate the contributions of IRF3 and IRF7 to the type I IFN response as well as the expression of other cytokines, chemokines, and degradative enzymes in synoviocytes.
Fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) were stimulated with poly (I-C) after transfection with IRF3 or IRF7 siRNA to knockdown transcription factor expression. Western blots, luciferase assay after transfection with reporter constructs, Q-PCR, and AP-1 DNA binding ELISA was performed to evaluate the role of IRF3 and IRF7 in poly (I-C)-induced signaling and synoviocyte gene expression.
IRF3 and IRF7 knockdown showed that IRF3 regulates IFN-stimulated response element (ISRE) promoter activity as well as IFNβ, IRF5, IRF7, RANTES, IP-10, MCP-1, and MIP1α gene expression in response to poly (I-C). IRF7 knockdown modestly decreased a subset of genes and ISRE activity, although the results were not significant. Surprisingly, IRF3 knockdown almost completely blocked expression of additional genes in which the ISRE is not traditionally considered a dominant promoter site in FLS, including MMP3, MMP9, IL-6 and IL-8. We then investigated a possible role for IRF3 in c-Jun activation and AP-1 binding because its promoter site is present in all four of the non-IFN regulated genes. IRF3 deficiency significantly decreased AP-1 binding of activated c-Jun compared with control.
In contrast to immune cells, IRF3 rather than IRF7 regulates TLR3-mediated type I IFN responses in human synoviocytes. IRF3 activates IFN-response gene expression by increasing ISRE promoter activity. In addition, IRF3 regulates other cytokines, chemokines, and MMPs through a novel mechanism that involves c-Jun and the AP-1 promoter site. Because the signaling pathway modulated by IRF3 plays a crucial role in synoviocytes, targeting IRF3 represents a potential approach to suppress diverse mediators while limiting suppression of IRF7-mediated immune responses.
PMCID: PMC2913682  PMID: 20483755
Rheumatoid arthritis; signal transduction; transcription factors; interferon
24.  Phosphorylation of IRF-3 on Ser 339 Generates a Hyperactive Form of IRF-3 through Regulation of Dimerization and CBP Association▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;82(8):3984-3996.
The IκB kinase-related kinases, TBK1 and IKKi, were recently shown to be responsible for the C-terminal phosphorylation of IRF-3. However, the identity of the phosphoacceptor site(s) targeted by these two kinases remains unclear. Using a biological assay based on the IRF-3-mediated production of antiviral cytokines, we demonstrate here that all Ser/Thr clusters of IRF-3 are required for its optimal transactivation capacity. In vitro kinase assays using full-length His-IRF-3 as a substrate combined with mass spectrometry analysis revealed that serine 402 and serine 396 are directly targeted by TBK1. Analysis of Ser/Thr-to-Ala mutants revealed that the S396A mutation, located in cluster II, abolished IRF-3 homodimerization, CBP association, and nuclear accumulation. However, production of antiviral cytokines was still present in IRF-3 S396A-expressing cells. Interestingly, mutation of serine 339, which is involved in IRF-3 stability, also abrogated CBP association and dimerization without affecting gene transactivation as long as serine 396 remained available for phosphorylation. Complementation of IRF-3-knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts also revealed a compensatory mechanism of serine 339 and serine 396 in the ability of IRF-3 to induce expression of the interferon-stimulated genes ISG56 and ISG54. These data lead us to reconsider the current model of IRF-3 activation. We propose that conventional biochemical assays used to measure IRF-3 activation are not sensitive enough to detect the small fraction of IRF-3 needed to elicit a biological response. Importantly, our study establishes a molecular link between the role of serine 339 in IRF-3 homodimerization, CBP association, and its destabilization.
PMCID: PMC2292984  PMID: 18272581
25.  TRAF6 and the Three C-Terminal Lysine Sites on IRF7 Are Required for Its Ubiquitination-Mediated Activation by the Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Family Member Latent Membrane Protein 1▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(20):6536-6546.
We have recently shown that interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7) is activated by Epstein-Barr virus latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily, through receptor-interacting protein-dependent K63-linked ubiquitination (L. E. Huye, S. Ning, M. Kelliher, and J. S. Pagano, Mol. Cell. Biol. 27:2910-2918, 2007). In this study, with the use of small interfering RNA and TNFR-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) knockout cells, we first show that TRAF6 and its E3 ligase activity are required for LMP1-stimulated IRF7 ubiquitination. In Raji cells which are latently infected and express high levels of LMP1 and IRF7 endogenously, expression of a TRAF6 small hairpin RNA construct reduces endogenous ubiquitination and endogenous activity of IRF7. In TRAF6−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts, reconstitution with TRAF6 expression, but not with TRAF6(C70A), which lacks the E3 ligase activity, recovers LMP1's ability to stimulate K63-linked ubiquitination of IRF7. Further, we identify IRF7 as a substrate for TRAF6 E3 ligase and show that IRF7 is ubiquitinated by TRAF6 at multiple sites both in vitro and in vivo. Most important, we determine that the last three C-terminal lysine sites (positions 444, 446, and 452) of human IRF7 variant A are essential for activation of IRF7; these are the first such sites identified. A ubiquitination-deficient mutant of IRF7 with these sites mutated to arginines completely loses transactivational ability in response not only to LMP1 but also to the IRF7 kinase IκB kinase ɛ. In addition, we find that K63-linked ubiquitination of IRF7 occurs independently of its C-terminal functional phosphorylation sites. These data support our hypothesis that regulatory ubiquitination of IRF7 is a prerequisite for its phosphorylation. This is the first evidence to imply that ubiquitination is required for phosphorylation and activation of a transcription factor.
PMCID: PMC2577435  PMID: 18710948

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