The cytokine interferon beta (IFNβ) is successfully used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), although there is a high degree of variability in the response. A common mechanism involved in the modulation of responsiveness to cytokines is represented by regulation of their receptor expression through autocrine ligand–mediated loops. The present study is aimed at investigating the regulation of IFNα/β receptor (IFNAR) during IFNβ therapy in patients with MS and at correlating it with the biologic responsiveness to the cytokine.Methods:
Quantitative PCR measurements of IFNAR-1 and the three IFNAR-2 isoforms were performed in 141 patients after short-term and long-term treatment. Patients were also regularly screened for anti-IFNβ neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). IFN-inducible myxovirus resistance protein A messenger RNA was used as an indicator of bioactivity.Results:
Pretreatment levels of IFNAR-2 in patients were lower overall than in controls (p = 0.038), and high levels correlated with greater bioactivity. Upon prolonged treatment, NAb-negative patients displayed a state of decreased transmembrane IFNAR-2 expression (p ≤ 0.025), whereas levels of soluble IFNAR-2 were slightly increased (p < 0.0001). The presence of NAbs reversed these effects (p ≤ 0.0056). In NAb-positive patients, pretreatment expression levels of both transmembrane IFNAR-2 isoforms were significantly lower than in NAb-negative patients (p ≤ 0.0089).Conclusions:
Findings show that interferon-α/β receptor (IFNAR)-2 isoforms are important regulators of the responsiveness to endogenous and systemically administered interferon beta (IFNβ). They show a dual action, agonistic and antagonistic, that influences both the magnitude and the nature of the biologic response to IFNβ. Levels of IFNAR-2 are regulated with the aim of keeping the body in a state of equilibrium, even when nonphysiologic stimuli are present.