Galectin-9 is an easy to measure biomarker for the interferon signature in systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid syndrome

Ann Rheum Dis. 2018 Dec;77(12):1810-1814. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-213497. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Objective: The interferon (IFN) signature is related to disease activity and vascular disease in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) and represents a promising therapeutic target. Quantification of the IFN signature is currently performed by gene expression analysis, limiting its current applicability in clinical practice. Therefore, the objective of this study was to establish an easy to measure biomarker for the IFN signature.

Methods: Serum levels of galectin-9, CXCL-10 (IP-10) and tumour necrosis factor receptor type II (TNF-RII) were measured in patients with SLE, SLE+APS and primary APS (PAPS) and healthy controls (n=148) after an initial screening of serum analytes in a smaller cohort (n=43). Analytes were correlated to measures of disease activity and the IFN signature. The performance of galectin-9, CXCL-10 and TNF-RII as biomarkers to detect the IFN signature was assessed by receiver operating characteristic curves.

Results: Galectin-9, CXCL-10 and TNF-RII were elevated in patients with SLE, SLE+APS and PAPS (p<0.05) and correlated with disease activity and tissue factor expression. Galectin-9 correlated stronger than CXCL-10 or TNF-RII with the IFN score (r=0.70, p<0.001) and was superior to CXCL-10 or TNF-RII in detecting the IFN signature (area under the curve (AUC) 0.86). Importantly, in patients with SLE(±APS), galectin-9 was also superior to anti-dsDNA antibody (AUC 0.70), or complement C3 (AUC 0.70) and C4 (AUC 0.78) levels in detecting the IFN signature.

Conclusion: Galectin-9 is a novel, easy to measure hence clinically applicable biomarker to detect the IFN signature in patients with systemic autoimmune diseases such as SLE and APS.

Keywords: antiphospholipid syndrome; biomarker; galectin-9; interferon signature; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / blood*
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / immunology
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Female
  • Galectins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Interferons / analysis*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Biomarkers
  • Galectins
  • LGALS9 protein, human
  • Interferons