Interferon-beta (IFNβ) has demonstrated beneficial effects reducing disease activity in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, but a relatively large proportion of patients do not respond to treatment. Here we aimed to investigate the roles of the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and the type I IFN pathways in the response to IFNβ in MS patients.
The expression levels of several components of the TLR4 and the type I IFN pathways were determined by flow cytometry and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from a cohort of 85 MS patients treated for at least 2 years with IFNβ and classified into responders, intermediate responders, and nonresponders based on their clinical response to treatment. Thirty-two healthy controls were also included in the study for comparison purposes.
Compared to responders and controls, PBMCs from nonresponders and intermediate responders were characterized by increased baseline expression levels of endogenous IFNβ and elevated IFN receptor 1 (IFNAR1) expression in monocytes. Furthermore, the capacity of IFNβ to induce its own expression was deficient in cells from nonresponders compared with responders. Baseline expression of the interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase 3 (IRAK3), a negative regulator of TLR4 signaling primarily expressed in monocytes, was found to be significantly decreased in IFNβ responders compared with nonresponders.
These findings provide evidence of the involvement of the TLR4 and type I IFN signaling pathways in the response to IFNβ. ANN NEUROL 2011;70:634–645