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J Immunol. 2010 Nov 15;185(10):5888-99. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902314. Epub 2010 Oct 18.

Major differences in the responses of primary human leukocyte subsets to IFN-beta.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.


Treatment of cell lines with type I IFNs activates the formation of IFN-stimulated gene factor 3 (STAT1/STAT2/IFN regulatory factor-9), which induces the expression of many genes. To study this response in primary cells, we treated fresh human blood with IFN-β and used flow cytometry to analyze phosphorylated STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5 in CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, B cells, and monocytes. The activation of STAT1 was remarkably different among these leukocyte subsets. In contrast to monocytes and CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, few B cells activated STAT1 in response to IFN-β, a finding that could not be explained by decreased levels of IFNAR2 or STAT1 or enhanced levels of suppressor of cytokine signaling 1 or relevant protein tyrosine phosphatases in B cells. Microarray and real-time PCR analyses revealed the induction of STAT1-dependent proapoptotic mRNAs in monocytes but not in B cells. These data show that IFN-stimulated gene factor 3 or STAT1 homodimers are not the main activators of gene expression in primary B cells of healthy humans. Notably, in B cells and, especially in CD4(+) T cells, IFN-β activated STAT5 in addition to STAT3, with biological effects often opposite from those driven by activated STAT1. These data help to explain why IFN-β increases the survival of primary human B cells and CD4(+) T cells but enhances the apoptosis of monocytes, as well as to understand how leukocyte subsets are differentially affected by endogenous type I IFNs during viral or bacterial infections and by type I IFN treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis, hepatitis, or cancer.

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