The type I interferon (IFN) system induces inhibition of viral replication, but can also activate the innate and adaptive immune system. An important role of the type I IFN system in autoimmune diseases, including lupus, is suggested by the observation that these disorders display a prominent over-expression of type I IFN regulated genes. The development of autoimmune diseases in some individuals treated with IFN-α directly supports a pivotal role for this cytokine in breaking tolerance and inducing autoimmune reactions. A genetic setup that promotes type I IFN production and/or response and the presence of endogenous inducers of IFN-α production have been described in patients with lupus. Several known environmental risk factors for development of lupus or disease flares may contribute to the ongoing type I IFN production. In the present review we will describe the possible role of the type I IFN system in the lupus disease process. The possible connection between the type I IFN system and some environmental and genetic risk factors for lupus is also discussed.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.