Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) has been demonstrated as a key transcription factor of the immune system, playing important roles in modulating inflammatory immune responses in numerous cell types including dendritic cells, macrophages, and B cells. As well as driving the expression of type I interferon in antiviral responses, IRF5 is also crucial for driving macrophages toward a proinflammatory phenotype by regulating cytokine and chemokine expression and modulating B-cell maturity and antibody production. This review highlights the functional importance of IRF5 in a disease setting, by discussing polymorphic mutations at the human Irf5 locus that lead to susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. In concordance with this, we also discuss lessons in IRF5 functionality learned from murine in vivo models of autoimmune disease and inflammation and hypothesize that modulation of IRF5 activity and expression could provide potential therapeutic benefits in the clinic.
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