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Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Apr;76(4):721-730. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2016-209589. Epub 2016 Sep 26.

Contrasting expression pattern of RNA-sensing receptors TLR7, RIG-I and MDA5 in interferon-positive and interferon-negative patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome.

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Department of Immunology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Bioinformatics, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Clinical Science, Broegelmann Research Laboratory, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
Department of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway.
Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



The interferon (IFN) type I signature is present in over half of patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) and associated with higher disease-activity and autoantibody presence. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are considered as the main source of enhanced IFN type I expression. The objective of this study was to unravel the molecular pathways underlying IFN type I bioactivity in pDCs of patients with pSS.


Blood samples from 42 healthy controls (HC) and 115 patients with pSS were stratified according to their IFN type I signature. CD123+BDCA4+ pDCs and CD14+ monocytes were isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Genome-wide microarray analysis was conducted on sorted pDCs in a small sample set, followed by validation of differentially expressed genes of interest in pDCs and monocytes.


We found an upregulation of endosomal toll-like receptor (TLR) 7, but not TLR9, in IFN-positive (IFNpos) pDCs (p<0.05) and monocytes (p=0.024). Additionally, the downstream signalling molecules MyD88, RSAD2 and IRF7 were upregulated, as were the cytoplasmic RNA-sensing receptors DDX58/retinoic acid inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and IFIH1/melanoma differentiation associated gene-5 (MDA5). In vitro triggering of the TLR7-pathway in HC PBMCs induced upregulation of DDX58/RIG-I and IFIH1/MDA5, and downregulated TLR9. The upregulation of TLR7, its downstream signalling pathway, DDX58/RIG-I and IFIH1/MDA5 were confined to patients with IFN-positive pSS. IFN-negative patients had a contrasting expression pattern-TLR7 normal, and decreased TLR9, RIG-I and MDA5.


Here we conclude a contrasting expression pattern of the RNA-sensing receptors TLR7, RIG-I and MDA5 in pDCs and monocytes of patients with IFNpos pSS. This profile could explain the pathogenic IFN production and might reveal novel therapeutic targets in these patients.


Autoimmunity; Cytokines; Sjøgren's Syndrome

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