Lupus-Associated Functional Polymorphism in PNP Causes Cell Cycle Abnormalities and Interferon Pathway Activation in Human Immune Cells.

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Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is frequently characterized by activation of the type I interferon (IFN) pathway. We previously observed that a missense single-nucleotide polymorphism (rs1049564) in the purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP) gene was associated with high levels of IFN in SLE. PNP is a key enzyme involved in purine metabolism. In this study, we performed functional follow-up of this polymorphism in human cells.


Type I IFN was measured in patient sera, using a reporter cell assay. Structural modeling of the PNP variant was performed using PyMOL software. PNP messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels and type I IFN-induced gene expression were measured in lymphoblastoid cell lines with known PNP rs1049564 genotypes. The cell cycle was assayed using flow cytometry.


Structural modeling indicated no major disruption in folding related to rs1049564. We observed that homozygous rs1049564 TT lymphoblastoid cells had decreased PNP mRNA expression and protein levels, and that cells with the TT genotype had reduced PNP enzymatic activity even when the amount of PNP was controlled. Cells with the TT genotype had a 2-fold increase in S-phase block as compared with cells with the homozygous CC phenotype. The S-phase block could be pharmacologically reversed with hypoxanthine and adenosine, supporting the notion that relative PNP deficiency is the cause of the S-phase block. Type I IFN-induced transcripts were increased in a dose-response manner related to the rs1049564 T allele, at both baseline and after type I IFN stimulation.


The PNP rs1049564 T allele is a loss-of-function variant that induces S-phase block and IFN pathway activation in lymphocytes. The S-phase block could be rescued in our in vitro experiments, suggesting the potential for personalized treatment.

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