Photosensitivity and type i IFN responses in cutaneous lupus are driven by epidermal-derived interferon kappa

Mrinal K. Sarkar, Grace A. Hile, Lam C. Tsoi, Xianying Xing, Jianhua Liu, Yun Liang, Celine C. Berthier, William R. Swindell, Matthew T. Patrick, Shuai Shao, Pei Suen Tsou, Ranjitha Uppala, Maria A. Beamer, Anshika Srivastava, Stephanie L. Bielas, Paul W. Harms, Spiro Getsios, James T. Elder, John J. Voorhees, Johann E. GudjonssonJ. Michelle Kahlenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Objective Skin inflammation and photosensitivity are common in patients with cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), yet little is known about the mechanisms that regulate these traits. Here we investigate the role of interferon kappa (IFN-κ) in regulation of type I interferon (IFN) and photosensitive responses and examine its dysregulation in lupus skin. Methods mRNA expression of type I IFN genes was analysed from microarray data of CLE lesions and healthy control skin. Similar expression in cultured primary keratinocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells was analysed via RNA-seq. IFNK knock-out (KO) keratinocytes were generated using CRISPR/Cas9. Keratinocytes stably overexpressing IFN-κ were created via G418 selection of transfected cells. IFN responses were assessed via phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT2 and qRT-PCR for IFN-regulated genes. Ultraviolet B-mediated apoptosis was analysed via TUNEL staining. In vivo protein expression was assessed via immunofluorescent staining of normal and CLE lesional skin. Results IFNK is one of two type I IFNs significantly increased (1.5-fold change, false discovery rate (FDR) q<0.001) in lesional CLE skin. Gene ontology (GO) analysis showed that type I IFN responses were enriched (FDR=6.8×10 -04) in keratinocytes not in fibroblast and endothelial cells, and this epithelial-derived IFN-κ is responsible for maintaining baseline type I IFN responses in healthy skin. Increased levels of IFN-κ, such as seen in SLE, amplify and accelerate responsiveness of epithelia to IFN-α and increase keratinocyte sensitivity to UV irradiation. Notably, KO of IFN-κ or inhibition of IFN signalling with baricitinib abrogates UVB-induced apoptosis. Conclusion Collectively, our data identify IFN-κ as a critical IFN in CLE pathology via promotion of enhanced IFN responses and photosensitivity. IFN-κ is a potential novel target for UVB prophylaxis and CLE-directed therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1664
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • autoimmune diseases
  • cytokines
  • inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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