Interferon regulatory factor 3 as key element of the interferon signature in plasmacytoid dendritic cells from systemic lupus erythematosus patients: novel genetic associations in the Mexican mestizo population

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SummaryMany genetic studies have found an association between interferon regulatory factors (IRF) single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); however, specific dendritic cell (DC) alterations have not been assessed. The aim of the present study was to address the expression of IRF3 and IRF5 on different DC subsets from SLE patients, as well as their association with interferon (IFN)-α production and novel SNPs. For the genetic association analyses, 156 SLE patients and 272 healthy controls from the Mexican mestizo population were included. From these, 36 patients and 36 controls were included for functional analysis. Two IRF3 SNPs − rs2304206 and rs2304204 – were determined. We found an increased percentage of circulating pDC in SLE patients in comparison to controls (8·04 ± 1·48 versus 3·35 ± 0·8, P = 0·032). We also observed enhanced expression of IRF3 (64 ± 6·36 versus 36·1 ± 5·57, P = 0·004) and IRF5 (40 ± 5·25 versus 22·5 ± 2·6%, P = 0·010) restricted to this circulating pDC subset from SLE patients versus healthy controls. This finding was associated with higher IFN-α serum levels in SLE (160·2 ± 21 versus 106·1 ± 14 pg/ml, P = 0·036). Moreover, the IRF3 rs2304206 polymorphism was associated with increased susceptibility to SLE [odds ratio (OR), 95% confidence interval (CI) = 2·401 (1·187–4·858), P = 0·021] as well as enhanced levels of serum type I IFN in SLE patients who were positive for dsDNA autoantibodies. The IRF3 rs2304204 GG and AG genotypes conferred decreased risk for SLE. Our findings suggest that the predominant IRF3 expression on circulating pDC is a key element for the increased IFN-α activation based on the interplay between the rs2304206 gene variant and the presence of dsDNA autoantibodies in Mexican mestizo SLE patients.

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