Hjorton K, Hagberg N, Pucholt P, Eloranta ML, Rönnblom L
Arthritis Res. Ther. 22 (1) 130 [2020-06-05; online 2020-06-05]
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have an ongoing interferon (IFN) production due to an activation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which can be triggered to type I IFN synthesis by RNA containing immune complexes (RNA-IC). Considering emerging data suggesting a role of type III IFN in the SLE disease process, we asked if RNA-IC can induce type III IFN production in pDC and how this production can be regulated. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) or immune cell subsets were isolated from healthy blood donors or SLE patients and stimulated with IC containing U1 snRNP and SLE-IgG (RNA-IC). Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and an interleukin receptor 1-associated kinase 4 inhibitor (IRAK4i) were added to cell cultures. Cytokine mRNA levels were determined with a microarray and protein levels with immunoassays. Single-cell RNA sequencing of pDCs using ddSEQ technology was performed. Type III IFN mRNA and protein was induced in RNA-IC-stimulated pDC-NK and pDC-B cell co-cultures. A subset of activated pDCs (3%) expressed both type III and type I IFN mRNA. IFN-λ2, IFN-α2b, interleukin (IL)-3, IL-6, or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) enhanced IFN-λ1/3 production 2-5-fold. HCQ and an IRAK4i blocked the RNA-IC-triggered IFN-λ1/3 production (p < 0.01). IFN-α2b and GM-CSF increased the proportion of SLE patients producing IFN-λ1/3 in response to RNA-IC from 11 to 33%. Type III IFN production is triggered by RNA-IC in pDCs in a TLR-MyD88-dependent manner, enhanced by NK and B cells as well as several pro-inflammatory cytokines. These results support a contributing role for both type I and type III IFNs in SLE, which needs to be considered when targeting the IFN system in this disease.