Background: The ten mouse and six human members of the Schlafen (Slfn) gene family all contain an AAA domain. Little is known of their function, but previous studies suggest roles in immune cell development. In this report, we assessed Slfn regulation and function in macrophages, which are key cellular regulators of innate immunity.
Methodology/principal findings: Multiple members of the Slfn family were up-regulated in mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMM) by the Toll-like Receptor (TLR)4 agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the TLR3 agonist Poly(I∶C), and in disease-affected joints in the collagen-induced model of rheumatoid arthritis. Of these, the most inducible was Slfn4. TLR agonists that signal exclusively through the MyD88 adaptor protein had more modest effects on Slfn4 mRNA levels, thus implicating MyD88-independent signalling and autocrine interferon (IFN)-β in inducible expression. This was supported by the substantial reduction in basal and LPS-induced Slfn4 mRNA expression in IFNAR-1⁻/⁻ BMM. LPS causes growth arrest in macrophages, and other Slfn family genes have been implicated in growth control. Slfn4 mRNA levels were repressed during macrophage colony-stimulating factor (CSF-1)-mediated differentiation of bone marrow progenitors into BMM. To determine the role of Slfn4 in vivo, we over-expressed the gene specifically in macrophages in mice using a csf1r promoter-driven binary expression system. Transgenic over-expression of Slfn4 in myeloid cells did not alter macrophage colony formation or proliferation in vitro. Monocyte numbers, as well as inflammatory macrophages recruited to the peritoneal cavity, were reduced in transgenic mice that specifically over-expressed Slfn4, while macrophage numbers and hematopoietic activity were increased in the livers and spleens.
Conclusions: Slfn4 mRNA levels were up-regulated during macrophage activation but down-regulated during differentiation. Constitutive Slfn4 expression in the myeloid lineage in vivo perturbs myelopoiesis. We hypothesise that the down-regulation of Slfn4 gene expression during macrophage differentiation is a necessary step in development of this lineage.