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Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Oct;77(10):1507-1515. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-212988. Epub 2018 Jun 26.

Apoptosis-derived membrane vesicles drive the cGAS-STING pathway and enhance type I IFN production in systemic lupus erythematosus.

Kato Y#1,2,3, Park J#2,4, Takamatsu H1,2,3,5, Konaka H1,2,3, Aoki W5,6, Aburaya S5,6, Ueda M5,6, Nishide M1,2,3, Koyama S1,2,3,5, Hayama Y1,2,3, Kinehara Y1,2,3, Hirano T1,2, Shima Y1,2, Narazaki M1,2, Kumanogoh A1,2,3,5.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine and Clinical Immunology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Department of Immunopathology, WPI Immunology Frontier Research Center (iFReC), Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development - Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (AMED-CREST), Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Japan Science and Technology-Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (JST-CREST), Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.
Division of Applied Life Sciences, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
Contributed equally



Despite the importance of type I interferon (IFN-I) in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) pathogenesis, the mechanisms of IFN-I production have not been fully elucidated. Recognition of nucleic acids by DNA sensors induces IFN-I and interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), but the involvement of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMP)-AMP synthase (cGAS) and stimulator of interferon genes (STING) in SLE remains unclear. We studied the role of the cGAS-STING pathway in the IFN-I-producing cascade driven by SLE serum.


We collected sera from patients with SLE (n=64), patients with other autoimmune diseases (n=31) and healthy controls (n=35), and assayed them using a cell-based reporter system that enables highly sensitive detection of IFN-I and ISG-inducing activity. We used Toll-like receptor-specific reporter cells and reporter cells harbouring knockouts of cGAS, STING and IFNAR2 to evaluate signalling pathway-dependent ISG induction.


IFN-I bioactivity and ISG-inducing activities of serum were higher in patients with SLE than in patients with other autoimmune diseases or healthy controls. ISG-inducing activity of SLE sera was significantly reduced in STING-knockout reporter cells, and STING-dependent ISG-inducing activity correlated with disease activity. Double-stranded DNA levels were elevated in SLE. Apoptosis-derived membrane vesicles (AdMVs) from SLE sera had high ISG-inducing activity, which was diminished in cGAS-knockout or STING-knockout reporter cells.


AdMVs in SLE serum induce IFN-I production through activation of the cGAS-STING pathway. Thus, blockade of the cGAS-STING axis represents a promising therapeutic target for SLE. Moreover, our cell-based reporter system may be useful for stratifying patients with SLE with high ISG-inducing activity.


autoimmune diseases; cytokines; inflammation; systemic lupus erythematosus

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