Upregulation of IFN-Inducible and Damage-Response Pathways in Chronic Graft-versus-Host Disease.

October 10, 2016
Although chronic graft-versus-host disease (CGVHD) is the primary nonrelapse complication of allogeneic transplantation, understanding of its pathogenesis is limited. To identify the main operant pathways across the spectrum of CGVHD, we analyzed gene expression in circulating monocytes, chosen as in situ systemic reporter cells. Microarrays identified two interrelated pathways: 1) IFN-inducible genes, and 2) innate receptors for cellular damage. Corroborating these with multiplex RNA quantitation, we found that multiple IFN-inducible genes (affecting lymphocyte trafficking, differentiation, and Ag presentation) were concurrently upregulated in CGVHD monocytes compared with normal subjects and non-CGVHD control patients. IFN-inducible chemokines were elevated in both lichenoid and sclerotic CGHVD plasma and were linked to CXCR3(+) lymphocyte trafficking. Furthermore, the levels of the IFN-inducible genes CXCL10 and TNFSF13B (BAFF) were correlated at both the gene and the plasma levels, implicating IFN induction as a factor in elevated BAFF levels in CGVHD. In the second pathway, damage-/pathogen-associated molecular pattern receptor genes capable of inducing type I IFN were upregulated. Type I IFN-inducible MxA was expressed in proportion to CGVHD activity in skin, mucosa, and glands, and expression of TLR7 and DDX58 receptor genes correlated with upregulation of type I IFN-inducible genes in monocytes. Finally, in serial analyses after transplant, IFN-inducible and damage-response genes were upregulated in monocytes at CGVHD onset and declined upon therapy and resolution in both lichenoid and sclerotic CGVHD patients. This interlocking analysis of IFN-inducible genes, plasma analytes, and tissue immunohistochemistry strongly supports a unifying hypothesis of induction of IFN by innate response to cellular damage as a mechanism for initiation and persistence of CGVHD.
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