Introduction: Using oligonucleotide microarray, many IFN-inducible genes have been found to be highly expressed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from most patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Among these IFN-inducible genes, IFN-induced protein with tetratricopeptide repeats 4 (IFIT4) is a novel gene whose function is unknown.
Methods: In this study we examined the role played by IFIT4 in monocyte differentiation and the correlation between IFIT4 expression and the clinical manifestation of SLE. To this end, we used plasmid transfection, flow cytometry, mixed leucocyte responses, ELISA, quantitative RT-PCR and Western blotting.
Results: We found that both IFIT4 mRNA and protein expression levels were significantly higher in PBMCs and monocytes from SLE patients than in those from healthy control individuals. IFIT4 expression was positively correlated with antinuclear antibodies, anti-double-stranded DNA, and anti-Sm auto-immune antibodies in SLE. Patients with SLE exhibiting higher expression of IFIT4 had a higher prevalence of leucopenia, thrombocytopenia and C3/C4 decrease. IFIT4 protein was localized exclusively to the cytoplasm, and it was significantly upregulated by IFN-alpha in normal PBMCs. To determine the role played by IFIT4 in monocyte differentiation, the monocytic cell line THP-1 was transfected with pEGFP-IFIT4 expression plasmid and stimulated with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor/IL-4 to generate IFIT4-primed dendritic cell-like cells (DCLCs). IFIT4-primed DCLCs acquired morphological characteristics of dendritic cells more quickly, with greater resemblance to dendritic cells, as compared with DCLCs primed with pEGFP-C1 control plasmid trasfection. Furthermore, they exhibited higher expressions of CD40, CD86, CD80, HLA-DR and CD83, along with lower expression of CD14; increased IL-12 secretion; and an increased ability to stimulate T-cell proliferation. In addition, IFIT4-primed DCLCs enhanced IFN-gamma secretion (about 2.4-fold) by T cells compared with controls.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that IFIT4 might play roles in promoting monocyte differentiation into DCLCs and in directing DCLCs to modulate T-helper-1 cell differentiation; these actions might contribute to the autoimmunity and pathogenesis of SLE.