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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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054487
PMCID: PMC3548774  PMID: 23349905
2.  Association of an IRF5 gene functional polymorphism with Sjögren's syndrome 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2007;56(12):3989-3994.
Objective
Interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 5 (IRF-5) is a transcription factor involved in the regulation of host defense. Previous reports have demonstrated a significant association of various IRF-5 polymorphisms with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), among Caucasians. This case-control study aimed to investigate whether IRF-5 polymorphisms were involved in the genetic predisposition to primary Sjögren Syndrome (pSS), an autoimmune disease closely related to SLE.
Methods
We analyzed IRF-5 rs2004640, rs2070197, rs10954213, and rs2280714 polymorphisms in a cohort of 212 pSS patients and 162 controls, all of Caucasian origin. The four studied polymorphisms were genotyped by competitive allele specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using FRET technology.
Results
The IRF-5 rs2004640 GT or TT genotypes (T allele carriers) were found among 87% of pSS patients compared with 77% in controls (P=0.01; OR1.93, 95%IC [1.15–3.42]). Likewise, IRF-5 rs2004640 T allele was found on 59% of chromosomes in pSS patients compared with 52% in controls (P=0.04; OR 1.36, 95% CI [1.01–1.83]). No significant association was evidenced with rs2070197, rs10954213, and rs2280714 when analyzed independently. Nevertheless, haplotype reconstructions based on the four studied polymorphisms suggest that various allele combinations of rs2004640 and rs2070197 could define susceptibility or protective haplotypes.
Conclusion
We demonstrated for the first time a significant association of IRF-5 rs2004640 T allele with pSS. These results, which require further replication on larger sample sized populations suggest that, beside association with identical major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene polymorphisms, pSS and SLE also share IRF-5 polymorphism as a common genetic susceptibility factor.
doi:10.1002/art.23142
PMCID: PMC3184606  PMID: 18050197
Alleles; Case-Control Studies; Genetic Predisposition to Disease; genetics; Genotype; Haplotypes; Humans; Interferon Regulatory Factors; genetics; Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic; genetics; Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide; genetics; Sjogren's Syndrome; genetics; IRF-5; Sjögren's syndrome; genetic polymorphism; haplotype
3.  The Systemic Lupus Erythematosus IRF5 Risk Haplotype Is Associated with Systemic Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54419.
Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a fibrotic autoimmune disease in which the genetic component plays an important role. One of the strongest SSc association signals outside the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region corresponds to interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), a major regulator of the type I IFN pathway. In this study we aimed to evaluate whether three different haplotypic blocks within this locus, which have been shown to alter the protein function influencing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility, are involved in SSc susceptibility and clinical phenotypes. For that purpose, we genotyped one representative single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of each block (rs10488631, rs2004640, and rs4728142) in a total of 3,361 SSc patients and 4,012 unaffected controls of Caucasian origin from Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and United Kingdom. A meta-analysis of the allele frequencies was performed to analyse the overall effect of these IRF5 genetic variants on SSc. Allelic combination and dependency tests were also carried out. The three SNPs showed strong associations with the global disease (rs4728142: P  = 1.34×10−8, OR  = 1.22, CI 95%  = 1.14–1.30; rs2004640: P  = 4.60×10−7, OR  = 0.84, CI 95%  = 0.78–0.90; rs10488631: P  = 7.53×10−20, OR  = 1.63, CI 95%  = 1.47–1.81). However, the association of rs2004640 with SSc was not independent of rs4728142 (conditioned P  = 0.598). The haplotype containing the risk alleles (rs4728142*A-rs2004640*T-rs10488631*C: P  = 9.04×10−22, OR  = 1.75, CI 95%  = 1.56–1.97) better explained the observed association (likelihood P-value  = 1.48×10−4), suggesting an additive effect of the three haplotypic blocks. No statistical significance was observed in the comparisons amongst SSc patients with and without the main clinical characteristics. Our data clearly indicate that the SLE risk haplotype also influences SSc predisposition, and that this association is not sub-phenotype-specific.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054419
PMCID: PMC3553151  PMID: 23372721
4.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1002/art.23613
PMCID: PMC2621107  PMID: 18668568
5.  Replication of the genetic effects of IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) on systemic lupus erythematosus in a Korean population 
Recently, two studies provided convincing evidence that IFN regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene polymorphisms are significantly associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in several white populations. To replicate the association with SLE in an Asian population, we examined the genetic effects in our SLE cohort from a Korean population. A total of 1,565 subjects, composed of 593 cases and 972 controls, were genotyped using the TaqMan® (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA, USA) method. The genetic effects of polymorphisms on the risk of SLE were evaluated using χ2 tests and a Mantel–Haenszel meta-analysis. Statistical analysis revealed results in the Korean population were similar to the previous reports from white populations. The rs2004640 T allele had a higher frequency in SLE cases (0.385) than controls (0.321; odds ratio (OR) = 1.32, P = 0.0003). In combined analysis, including all seven independent cohorts from the three studies so far, robust and consistent associations of the rs2004640 T allele with SLE were observed. The estimate of risk was OR = 1.44 (range, 1.34–1.55), with an overall P = 1.85 × 10-23 for the rs2004640 T allele. The haplotype (rs2004640T–rs2280714T) involved in both the alternative splice donor site and the elevated expression of IRF5 also had a highly significant association with SLE (pooled, P = 2.11 × 10-16). Our results indicate that the genetic effect on the risk of SLE mediated by IRF5 variants can be generally accepted in both white and Asian populations.
doi:10.1186/ar2152
PMCID: PMC1906810  PMID: 17389033
6.  Association of IRF5 polymorphisms with activation of the interferon α pathway 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2009;69(3):611-617.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1136/ard.2009.118315
PMCID: PMC3135414  PMID: 19854706
7.  Association of IRF5 in UK SLE families identifies a variant involved in polyadenylation 
Human molecular genetics  2006;16(6):579-591.
Results from two studies have implicated the interferon regulatory gene IRF5 as a susceptibility gene in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In this study, we conducted a family-based association analysis in 380 UK SLE nuclear families. Using a higher density of markers than has hitherto been screened, we show that there is association with two SNPs in the first intron, rs2004640 (P = 3.4 × 10−4) and rs3807306 (P = 4.9 × 10−4), and the association extends into the 3′-untranslated region (UTR). There is a single haplotype block encompassing IRF5 and we show for the first time that the gene comprises two over-transmitted haplotypes and a single under-transmitted haplotype. The strongest association is with a TCTAACT haplotype (T:U = 1.92, P = 5.8 × 10−5), which carries all the over-transmitted alleles from this study. Haplotypes carrying the T alleles of rs2004640 and rs2280714 and the A allele of rs10954213 are over-transmitted in SLE families. The TAT haplotype shows a dose-dependent relationship with mRNA expression. A differential expression pattern was seen between two expression probes located each side of rs10954213 in the 3′-UTR. rs10954213 shows the strongest association with RNA expression levels (P = 1 × 10−14). The A allele of rs10954213 creates a functional polyadenylation site and the A genotype correlates with increased expression of a transcript variant containing a shorter 3′-UTR. Expression levels of transcript variants with the shorter or longer 3′-UTRs are inversely correlated. Our data support a new mechanism by which an IRF5 polymorphism controls the expression of alternate transcript variants which may have different effects on interferon signalling.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddl469
PMCID: PMC3706933  PMID: 17189288
8.  IRF5 activation in monocytes of SLE patients is triggered by circulating autoantigens independent of type I IFN 
Arthritis and Rheumatism  2012;64(3):788-798.
Objective
Genetic variants of interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) are associated with susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). IRF5 regulates the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and type I interferons (IFN) believed to be involved in SLE pathogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the activation status of IRF5 by assessing its nuclear localization in immune cells of SLE patients and healthy donors, and to identify SLE triggers of IRF5 activation.
Methods
IRF5 nuclear localization in subpopulations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 14 genotyped SLE patients and 11 healthy controls was assessed using imaging flow cytometry. IRF5 activation and function were examined after ex vivo stimulation of healthy donor monocytes with SLE serum or components of SLE serum. Cellular localization was determined by ImageStream and cytokine expression by Q-PCR and ELISA.
Results
IRF5 was activated in a cell type-specific manner; monocytes of SLE patients had constitutively elevated levels of nuclear IRF5 compared to NK and T cells. SLE serum was identified as a trigger for IRF5 nuclear accumulation; however, neither IFNα nor SLE immune complexes could induce nuclear localization. Instead, autoantigens comprised of apoptotic/necrotic material triggered IRF5 nuclear accumulation in monocytes. Production of cytokines IFNα, TNFα and IL6 in monocytes stimulated with SLE serum or autoantigens was distinct yet correlated with the kinetics of IRF5 nuclear localization.
Conclusion
This study provides the first formal proof that IRF5 activation is altered in monocytes of SLE patients that is in part contributed by the SLE blood environment.
doi:10.1002/art.33395
PMCID: PMC3288585  PMID: 21968701
9.  Cis-regulation of IRF5 expression is unable to fully account for systemic lupus erythematosus association: analysis of multiple experiments with lymphoblastoid cell lines 
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/ar3343
PMCID: PMC3218890  PMID: 21627826
systemic lupus erythematosus; IRF5; lymphoblastoid cell lines; cis-regulation; disease susceptibility; linear regression models
10.  Interferon Regulatory Factors in Human Lupus Pathogenesis 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a severe multi-system autoimmune disease which results from both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Many lines of investigation support interferon alpha (IFN-α) as a causal agent in human lupus, and high levels of serum IFN-α are a heritable risk factor for SLE. Interferon regulatory factors (IRFs) are a family of transcription factors involved in host defense, which can induce transcription of IFN-α and other immune response genes following activation. In SLE, circulating immune complexes which contain nucleic acid are prevalent. These complexes are recognized by endosomal Toll-like receptors, resulting in activation of downstream IRF proteins. Genetic variants in the IRF5 and IRF7 genes have been associated with SLE susceptibility, and these same variants are associated with increased serum IFN-α in SLE patients. The increase in serum IFN-α related to IRF5 and 7 genotypes is observed only in patients with particular antibody specificities. This suggests that chronic stimulation of the endosomal Toll-like receptors by autoantibody immune complexes is required for IRF SLE-risk variants to cause elevation of circulating IFN-α and subsequent risk of SLE. Recently, genetic variation in the IRF8 gene has been associated with SLE and multiple sclerosis, and studies support an impact of IRF8 genotype on the IFN-α pathway. In summary, the SLE-associated polymorphisms in the IRF family of proteins appear to be gain-of-function variants, and understanding the impact of these variants upon the IFN-α pathway in vivo may guide therapeutic strategies directed at the Toll-like receptor/IRF/IFN-α pathway in SLE.
doi:10.1016/j.trsl.2011.01.006
PMCID: PMC3096827  PMID: 21575916
Interferon Alpha; Genetics; Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Interferon Regulatory Factor; Autoantibodies; Autoimmunity
11.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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
doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200463
PMCID: PMC3307526  PMID: 22088620
12.  Exon 6 variants carried on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) risk haplotypes modulate IRF5 function 
Autoimmunity  2010;44(2):82-89.
Interferon response factor 5 (IRF5) regulates innate immune responses to viral infection. IRF5 genetic variants have been shown to be strongly associated with risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Functional roles of IRF5 exon 6 structural variants that occur as part of a SLE risk-associated haplotype, including a 30-bp in/del (in/del-10) and a 48-bp splice-site variant (SV-16), have not been established. In this study, we used IRF5 deficient cells overexpressing human IRF5 variants to investigate the roles of exon 6 in/del-10 and SV-16 in regulation of the apoptosis response, nuclear translocation, and ability to transactivate IRF5 responsive cytokines. We found that expression of IRF5 isoforms including either SV-16 or in/del-10 confers ability of IRF5 to impair the apoptotic response and correlates with reduced capacity for IRF5 nuclear translocation in MEFs after a DNA-damaging stimulus treatment. Interestingly, the presence or absence of both SV-16 and in/del-10 results in abrogation of both the anti-apoptotic and enhanced nuclear translocation effects of IRF5 expression. Only cells expressing IRF5 bearing SV-16 show increased IL-6 production upon LPS stimulation. MEFs expressing hIRF5 variants containing in/del-10 showed no significant difference from the control; however, cells carrying hIRF5 lacking both SV-16 and in/del-10 showed reduced IL-6 production. Our overall findings suggest that exon 6 SV-16 is more potent than in/del-10 for IRF5-driven resistance to apoptosis and promotion of cytokine production; however, in/del-10 co-expression can neutralize these effects of SV-16.
doi:10.3109/08916934.2010.491842
PMCID: PMC3104271  PMID: 20695768
SLE; IRF5 variants; exon 6; apoptosis; nuclear translocation
13.  Two Functional Variants of IRF5 Influence the Development of Macular Edema in Patients with Non-Anterior Uveitis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76777.
Objective
Interferon (IFN) signaling plays a crucial role in autoimmunity. Genetic variation in interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5), a major regulator of the type I interferon induction, has been associated with risk of developing several autoimmune diseases. In the current study we aimed to evaluate whether three sets of correlated IRF5 genetic variants, independently associated with SLE and with different functional roles, are involved in uveitis susceptibility and its clinical subphenotypes.
Methods
Three IRF5 polymorphisms, rs2004640, rs2070197 and rs10954213, representative of each group, were genotyped using TaqMan® allelic discrimination assays in a total of 263 non-anterior uveitis patients and 724 healthy controls of Spanish origin.
Results
A clear association between two of the three analyzed genetic variants, rs2004640 and rs10954213, and the absence of macular edema was observed in the case/control analysis (PFDR=5.07E-03, OR=1.48, CI 95%=1.14-1.92 and PFDR=3.37E-03, OR=1.54, CI 95%=1.19-2.01, respectively). Consistently, the subphenotype analysis accordingly with the presence/absence of this clinical condition also reached statistical significance (rs2004640: P=0.037, OR=0.69, CI 95%=0.48-0.98; rs10954213: P=0.030, OR=0.67, CI 95%=0.47-0.96), thus suggesting that both IRF5 genetic variants are specifically associated with the lack of macular edema in uveitis patients.
Conclusion
Our results clearly showed for the first time that two functional genetic variants of IRF5 may play a role in the development of macular edema in non-anterior uveitis patients. Identifying genetic markers for macular edema could lead to the possibility of developing novel treatments or preventive therapies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076777
PMCID: PMC3792064  PMID: 24116155
14.  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.
doi:10.3389/fimmu.2013.00360
PMCID: PMC3819785  PMID: 24223576
IRF5; alternative promoters; autoimmune disease risk; interferon; systemic lupus erythematosus
15.  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.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1201162
PMCID: PMC3454479  PMID: 22933628
16.  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.
Summary
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.
doi:10.1002/eji.201141642
PMCID: PMC3684952  PMID: 22678902
interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5, IRF-5); systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); autoantibody; type I interferon; Th2
17.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1002/art.27182
PMCID: PMC2832192  PMID: 20112359
18.  STAT4 Associates with SLE Through Two Independent Effects that Correlate with Gene Expression and Act Additively with IRF5 to Increase Risk 
Annals of the rheumatic diseases  2008;68(11):10.1136/ard.2008.097642.
Objectives
To confirm and define the genetic association of STAT4 and systemic lupus erythematosus, investigate the possibility of correlations with differential splicing and/or expression levels, and genetic interaction with IRF5.
Methods
30 tag SNPs were genotyped in an independent set of Spanish cases and controls. SNPs surviving correction for multiple tests were genotyped in 5 new sets of cases and controls for replication. STAT4 cDNA was analyzed by 5’-RACE PCR and sequencing. Expression levels were measured by quantitative PCR.
Results
In the fine-mapping, four SNPs were significant after correction for multiple testing, with rs3821236 and rs3024866 as the strongest signals, followed by the previously associated rs7574865, and by rs1467199. Association was replicated in all cohorts. After conditional regression analyses, two major independent signals represented by SNPs rs3821236 and rs7574865, remained significant across the sets. These SNPs belong to separate haplotype blocks. High levels of STAT4 expression correlated with SNPs rs3821236, rs3024866 (both in the same haplotype block) and rs7574865 but not with other SNPs. We also detected transcription of alternative tissue-specific exons 1, indicating presence of tissue-specific promoters of potential importance in the expression of STAT4. No interaction with associated SNPs of IRF5 was observed using regression analysis.
Conclusions
These data confirm STAT4 as a susceptibility gene for SLE and suggest the presence of at least two functional variants affecting levels of STAT4. Our results also indicate that both genes STAT4 and IRF5 act additively to increase risk for SLE.
doi:10.1136/ard.2008.097642
PMCID: PMC3878433  PMID: 19019891
Association studies; systemic lupus erythematosus; STAT4 transcription factor; Interferon regulatory factor; genetic predisposition to disease
19.  IRF5 rs2004640‐T allele, the new genetic factor for systemic lupus erythematosus, is not associated with rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2006;66(6):828-831.
Background
Recently, a new genetic factor within the interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) gene was demonstrated for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) through linkage and association: the rs2004640‐T allele. IRF5 is involved in the production of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cytokines, and SLE already shares with RA one genetic factor within the tyrosine phosphatase PTPN22 gene.
Aim
To test the hypothesis that the SLE IRF5 genetic factor could also be shared with RA.
Patients and methods
100 French Caucasian trio families with RA were genotyped and analysed with the transmission disequilibrium test, the frequency comparison of the transmitted and untransmitted alleles, and the genotype relative risk. 97% power was available to detect at least a trend in favour of a factor similar to that reported for SLE.
Results
The analysis showed the absence of linkage and association globally and in “autoimmune” RA subsets, with a weak non‐significant trend against the IRF5rs20046470‐T allele. Given the robustness of familial‐based analysis, this slight negative trend provided strong evidence against even a weaker factor than that reported for SLE.
Conclusion
Our results exclude the IRF5rs2004640‐T allele as a major genetic factor for RA in this French Caucasian population.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.061390
PMCID: PMC1954661  PMID: 17158136
20.  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.
doi:10.1155/2012/594056
PMCID: PMC3304673  PMID: 22500098
21.  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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1002/art.34571
PMCID: PMC3449035  PMID: 22674082
systemic lupus erythematosus; interferon; autoantibodies; neonatal lupus; Sjogren’s syndrome
22.  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.
doi:10.1155/2012/780436
PMCID: PMC3509422  PMID: 23251221
23.  Genetic Variation near IRF8 is Associated with Serologic and Cytokine Profiles in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Multiple Sclerosis 
Genes and immunity  2013;14(8):10.1038/gene.2013.42.
Alleles of IRF8 are associated with susceptibility to both systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and multiple sclerosis (MS). While high type I interferon (IFN) is thought to be causal in SLE, type I IFN is used as a therapy in MS. We investigated whether IRF8 alleles were associated with type I IFN levels or serologic profiles in SLE and MS. Alleles which have been previously associated with SLE or MS were genotyped in SLE and MS patients. The MS-associated rs17445836G allele was associated with anti-dsDNA autoantibodies in SLE patients (meta-analysis OR=1.92). The same allele was associated with decreased serum IFN activity in SLE patients with anti-dsDNA antibodies, and with decreased type I IFN-induced gene expression in PBMC from anti-dsDNA negative SLE patients. In secondary progressive MS patients, rs17445836G was associated with decreased serum type I IFN. Rs17445836G was associated with increased IRF8 expression in SLE patient B cells. In summary, IRF8 rs17445836G is associated with human autoimmune disease characterized by low type I IFN levels, and this may have pharmacogenetic relevance as type I IFN is modulated in SLE and MS. The association with autoantibodies and increased IRF8 expression in B cells supports a role for rs17445836G in humoral tolerance.
doi:10.1038/gene.2013.42
PMCID: PMC3856198  PMID: 23965942
systemic lupus erythematosus; type I interferon; autoantibodies; interferon regulatory factors
24.  Genetic Risk Factors in Lupus Nephritis and IgA Nephropathy – No Support of an Overlap 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(5):e10559.
Background
IgA nephropathy (IgAN) and nephritis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) are two common forms of glomerulonephritis in which genetic findings are of importance for disease development. We have recently reported an association of IgAN with variants of TGFB1. In several autoimmune diseases, particularly in SLE, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus have been shown to be important candidate genes. The aim of this study was to compare genetic variants from the TGFB1, IRF5, STAT4 genes and TRAF1-C5 locus with susceptibility to IgAN and lupus nephritis in two Swedish cohorts.
Patients and Methods
We genotyped 13 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in four genetic loci in 1252 DNA samples from patients with biopsy proven IgAN or with SLE (with and without nephritis) and healthy age- and sex-matched controls from the same population in Sweden.
Results
Genotype and allelic frequencies for SNPs from selected genes did not differ significantly between lupus nephritis patients and SLE patients without nephritis. In addition, haplotype analysis for seven selected SNPs did not reveal a difference for the SLE patient groups with and without nephritis. Moreover, none of these SPNs showed a significant difference between IgAN patients and healthy controls. IRF5 and STAT4 variants remained significantly different between SLE cases and healthy controls. In addition, the data did not show an association of TRAF1-C5 polymorphism with susceptibility to SLE in this Swedish population.
Conclusion
Our data do not support an overlap in genetic susceptibility between patients with IgAN or SLE and reveal no specific importance of SLE associated SNPs for the presence of lupus nephritis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010559
PMCID: PMC2866667  PMID: 20479942
25.  Dual Functions of Interferon Regulatory Factors 7C in Epstein-Barr Virus–Mediated Transformation of Human B Lymphocytes 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9459.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is associated with several human malignancies. Interferon (IFN) regulatory factor 7 (IRF-7) has several splicing variants, and at least the major splicing variant (IRF-7A) has oncogenic potential and is associated with EBV transformation processes. IRF-7C is an alternative splicing variant with only the DNA-binding domain of IRF-7. Whether IRF-7C is present under physiological conditions and its functions in viral transformation are unknown. In this report, we prove the existence of IRF-7C protein and RNA in certain cells under physiological conditions, and find that high levels of IRF-7C are associated with EBV transformation of human primary B cells in vitro as well as EBV type III latency. EBV latent membrane protein 1 (LMP-1) stimulates IRF-7C expression in B lymphocytes. IRF-7C has oncogenic potential in rodent cells and partially restores the growth properties of EBV-transformed cells under a growth-inhibition condition. A tumor array experiment has identified six primary tumor specimens with high levels of IRF-7C protein—all of them are lymphomas. Furthermore, we show that the expression of IRF-7C is apparently closely associated with other IRF-7 splicing variants. IRF-7C inhibits the function of IRF-7 in transcriptional regulation of IFN genes. These data suggest that EBV may use splicing variants of IRF-7 for its transformation process in two strategies: to use oncogenic properties of various IRF-7 splicing variants, but use one of its splicing variants (IRF-7C) to block the IFN-induction function of IRF-7 that is detrimental for viral transformation. The work provides a novel relation of host/virus interactions, and has expanded our knowledge about IRFs in EBV transformation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009459
PMCID: PMC2831998  PMID: 20209099

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