Objective: To investigate interferon-gamma (IFNgamma) signaling in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) by analyzing IFNgamma receptor (IFNgammaR) expression, STAT-1 expression and phosphorylation, and the regulation of IFNgamma-inducible genes.
Methods: Fluorocytometry was used to investigate expression of STAT-1, pSTAT-1, CD95, HLA-DR, class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC), IFNgamma-inducible 10-kd protein (IP-10), monokine induced by IFNgamma (Mig), and IFNgammaR in PBMCs from SLE patients and healthy individuals. STAT-1 phosphorylation was determined by fluorocytometry and Western blotting after stimulation with IFNalpha or IFNgamma. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to assess messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of the IFNgamma-inducible genes IP-10 and Mig shortly after preparation or after stimulation with IFNgamma in monocytes.
Results: STAT-1 expression was increased in PBMCs from SLE patients and correlated significantly with disease activity and with the IFN-inducible expression of CD95 and HLA-DR. STAT-1 expression also showed a trend toward association with class I MHC expression. In addition, the expression of other IFNgamma-inducible genes, such as IP-10 or Mig, was increased in SLE monocytes. While STAT-1 phosphorylation in SLE PBMCs and PBMCs from healthy individuals was similar after IFNalpha stimulation, incubation with IFNgamma induced STAT-1 phosphorylation only in SLE lymphocytes. Moreover, SLE monocytes showed a considerably higher increase in pSTAT-1 expression upon IFNgamma stimulation than monocytes from healthy individuals. Increased responsiveness of SLE monocytes to IFNgamma was also confirmed on the mRNA level, where expression of the IFN-inducible, STAT-1-dependent genes IP-10 and Mig was more efficiently increased in SLE cells. However, IFNgammaR was similarly expressed on SLE lymphocytes and monocytes and those from healthy individuals.
Conclusion: In addition to supporting the role of IFNs in SLE immunopathogenesis in general, the findings of the present study support a role of IFNgamma in this disease.