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J Immunol. 2012 Jul 1;189(1):80-91. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101686. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Myeloid dendritic cells from B6.NZM Sle1/Sle2/Sle3 lupus-prone mice express an IFN signature that precedes disease onset.

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Laboratory of Dendritic Cell Biology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus show an overexpression of type I IFN-responsive genes that is referred to as "IFN signature." We found that B6.NZMSle1/Sle2/Sle3 (Sle1,2,3) lupus-prone mice also express an IFN signature compared with non-autoimmune C57BL/6 mice. In vitro, myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs) (GM-CSF bone marrow-derived dendritic cells; BMDCs) from Sle1,2,3 mice constitutively overexpressed IFN-responsive genes such as IFN-β, Oas-3, Mx-1, ISG-15, and CXCL10 and members of the IFN signaling pathway STAT1, STAT2, and IRF7. The IFN signature was similar in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs from young, pre-autoimmune mice and from mice with high titers of autoantibodies, suggesting that the IFN signature in mDCs precedes disease onset and is independent from the autoantibodies. Sle1,2,3 BMDCs hyperresponded to stimulation with IFN-α and the TLR7 and TLR9 agonists R848 and CpGs. We propose that this hyperresponse is induced by the IFN signature and only partially contributes to the signature, as oligonucleotides inhibitory for TLR7 and TLR9 only partially suppressed the constitutive IFN signature, and pre-exposure to IFN-α induced the same hyperresponse in wild-type BMDCs as in Sle1,2,3 BMDCs. In vivo, mDCs and to a lesser extent T and B cells from young prediseased Sle1,2,3 mice also expressed the IFN signature, although they lacked the strength that BMDCs showed in vitro. Sle1,2,3 plasmacytoid DCs expressed the IFN signature in vitro but not in vivo, suggesting that mDCs may be more relevant before disease onset. We propose that Sle1,2,3 mice are useful tools to study the role of the IFN signature in lupus pathogenesis.

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