• autoantibodies;
  • autoimmune disease;
  • gene expression profiling;
  • IFN-α;
  • SLE


Interferon (IFN) signature genes have been shown to be expressed highly in peripheral blood of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), especially in the presence of active disease. However, the expression of this gene signature in individuals with incomplete forms of lupus and the pathogenic relationship between IFN signature genes and autoantibody production have not been explored fully. In the present study, we examined the gene expression and autoantibody profiles of patients diagnosed with incomplete lupus erythematosus (ILE) to determine correlations of the gene expression signature with autoantibody production. Gene expression analysis was carried out on the 24K Illumina Human Refseq-8 arrays using blood samples from 84 subjects, including patients with SLE (n = 27) or ILE (n = 24), first-degree relatives (FDR) of these patients (n = 22) and non-autoimmune control (NC) individuals (n = 11). Autoantibody expression was measured using standard immunoassays and autoantigen proteomic arrays. Up-regulation of a set of 63 IFN signature genes was seen in 83% of SLE patients and 50% of ILE patients. High levels of IFN gene expression in ILE and SLE showed significant correlations with the expression of a subset of IgG autoantibodies, including chromatin, dsDNA, dsRNA, U1snRNP, Ro/SSA, La/SSB, topoisomerase I and Scl 70, while low IFN levels were correlated with immunoglobulin (Ig)M autoreactivity. These studies suggest that in patients with ILE the IFN gene expression signature may identify a subset of these individuals who are at risk for disease progression. Furthermore, high levels of alpha IFN may promote autoantibody class-switch from IgM to the more pathogenic IgG class.