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Potential role of EBV and Toll-like receptor 9 ligand in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

Immunologic Research 2023 April 26
SLE is a multisystem autoimmune disease characterized by multiple immunological abnormalities including production of autoantibodies. While the etiology of SLE is largely unknown, it is generally accepted that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to disease risk and immune dysregulation. Production of IFN-α is important for protecting the host against infections; however, over stimulation of innate immune pathways can induce autoimmune disease. Environmental factors, particularly Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), have been proposed to play an important role in SLE disease. Improper engagement of Toll-like receptor (TLR) pathways by endogenous or exogenous ligands may lead to the initiation of autoimmune responses and tissue injury. EBV is shown to be a potent stimulant of IFN-α by TLR signaling cascades. Given the highlighted role of IFN-α in SLE pathogenesis and potential role of EBV infection in this disease, the present study is aimed at exploring the in vitro effects of EBV infection and CPG (either alone or in combination) on IFN-α. We also examined the expression level of CD20 and BDCA-4 and CD123 in PBMCs in 32 SLE patients and 32 healthy controls. Our results showed PBMCs treated with CPG-induced higher levels of IFN-α and TLR-9 gene expression fold change compared to cells treated with either EBV or EBV-CPG. Moreover, PBMCs treated with CPG produced significantly higher IFN-α concentration in supernatant compared to cells treated with EBV but not EBV-CPG. Our results further highlight the potential role of EBV infection and TLRs in SLE patients although more studies are warranted to ascertain the global imprint that EBV infection can have on immune signature in patients with SLE.

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