Type I Interferons Modulate Vascular Function, Repair, Thrombosis, and Plaque Progression in Murine Models of Lupus and Atherosclerosis

Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Sep;64(9):2975-85. doi: 10.1002/art.34504.


Objective: Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have a notable increase in atherothrombotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) which is not explained by the Framingham risk equation. In vitro studies indicate that type I interferons (IFNs) may play prominent roles in increased CV risk in SLE. However, the in vivo relevance of these findings, with regard to the development of CVD, has not been characterized. This study was undertaken to examine the role of type I IFNs in endothelial dysfunction, aberrant vascular repair, and atherothrombosis in murine models of lupus and atherosclerosis.

Methods: Lupus-prone New Zealand mixed 2328 (NZM) mice and atherosclerosis-prone apolipoprotein E- knockout (apoE(-/-) ) mice were compared to mice lacking type I IFN receptor (INZM and apoE(-/-) IFNAR(-/-) mice, respectively) with regard to endothelial vasodilatory function, endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) function, in vivo neoangiogenesis, plaque development, and occlusive thrombosis. Similar experiments were performed using NZM and apoE(-/-) mice exposed to an IFNα-containing or empty adenovirus.

Results: Loss of type I IFN receptor signaling improved endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation, lipoprotein parameters, EPC numbers and function, and neoangiogenesis in lupus-prone mice, independent of disease activity or sex. Further, acute exposure to IFNα impaired endothelial vasorelaxation and EPC function in lupus-prone and non-lupus-prone mice. Decreased atherosclerosis severity and arterial inflammatory infiltrates and increased neoangiogenesis were observed in apoE(-/-) IFNAR(-/-) mice, compared to apoE(-/-) mice, while NZM and apoE(-/-) mice exposed to IFNα developed accelerated thrombosis and platelet activation.

Conclusion: These results support the hypothesis that type I IFNs play key roles in the development of premature CVD in SLE and, potentially, in the general population, through pleiotropic deleterious effects on the vasculature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism*
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Female
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / metabolism*
  • Thrombosis / metabolism*
  • Vasodilation / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Interferon Type I