Objective: Interferon regulatory factor 5 is a transcription factor involved in type I interferon (IFN) secretion. This study was undertaken to investigate whether a 5-bp (CGGGG insertion/deletion) promoter polymorphism is involved in genetic predisposition to primary Sjögren's syndrome (SS) and to assess the functional consequences of this polymorphism.
Methods: The exploratory cohort consisted of 185 patients with primary SS and 157 healthy controls, and the replication cohort consisted of 200 patients with primary SS and 282 healthy controls. Levels of IRF5 messenger RNA (mRNA) were assessed at baseline and after in vitro infection with reovirus in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 30 patients with primary SS and from salivary gland epithelial cells that had been cultured for 4 weeks from patients with primary SS or sicca symptoms.
Results: Carriage of the IRF5 4R CGGGG allele was associated with a greatly increased risk of primary SS in both cohorts (odds ratio 2.00 [95% confidence interval 1.5-2.7], P = 6.6 x 10(-6)). The CGGGG insertion/deletion polymorphism alone was sufficient to explain the association of primary SS with IRF5. The level of IRF5 mRNA in PBMCs depended significantly on genotype (P = 0.002) and was correlated with the levels of mRNA for the IFN-induced genes MX1 and IFITM1. Cultured salivary gland epithelial cells from patients carrying the 4R CGGGG IRF5 allele showed a high level of IRF5 mRNA (P = 0.04), which was amplified after reovirus infection (P = 0.026).
Conclusion: Our findings indicate an association of the CGGGG insertion/deletion polymorphism of the IRF5 promoter with primary SS. Patients carrying the 4R CGGGG IRF5 allele had a high level of mRNA for IRF5 in PBMCs and salivary gland epithelial cells, mainly after in vitro viral infection. Patients with high levels of mRNA for IRF5 also had high levels of mRNA for type I IFN-induced genes in PBMCs.