Type I Interferons in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases


Type I interferons (IFN-Is) are a very important group of cytokines that are produced by innate immune cells but also act on adaptive immune cells. IFN-Is possess antiviral, antitumor, and anti-proliferative effects, as well are associated with the initiation and maintenance of autoimmune disorders. Studies have shown that aberrantly expressed IFN-Is and/or type I IFN-inducible gene signatures in the serum or tissues of patients with autoimmune disorders are linked to their pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and disease activity. Type I interferonopathies with mutations in genes impacting the type I IFN signaling pathway have shown symptoms and characteristics similar to those of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Furthermore, both interventions in animal models and clinical trials of therapies targeting the type I IFN signaling pathway have shown efficacy in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Our review aims to summarize the functions and targeted therapies (as well as clinical trials) of IFN-Is in both adult and pediatric autoimmune diseases, such as SLE, pediatric SLE (pSLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), Sjögren syndrome (SjS), and systemic sclerosis (SSc), discussing the potential abnormal regulation of transcription factors and epigenetic modifications and providing a potential mechanism for pathogenesis and therapeutic strategies for future clinical use.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



Aicardi-Goutières syndrome


Bruton’s tyrosine kinase


Cyclic GMP-AMP synthase


Type I interferon


Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase


Interferon regulatory family


Interferon-stimulated gene


Janus kinase


Juvenile dermatomyositis


Juvenile idiopathic arthritis


Mitochondrial antiviral signaling protein


Melanoma differentiation-associated gene


Myeloid differentiation primary response gene


Plasmacytoid dendritic cell


Pattern recognition receptor


primary Sjögren syndrome


Pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus


Rheumatoid arthritis


Retinoic acid-inducible gene-I


Systemic sclerosis


Signal transducers and activators of transcription


Stimulator of interferon


Spleen tyrosine kinase


TANK-binding kinase


Toll-like receptor


Tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor


Three prime repair exonuclease


Toll-IL-1 receptor domain-containing adaptor inducing IFN-β


Tyrosine kinase


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We thank Xing Wang, Meixi Liu, Zhenwei Tang, and Bowen Li for their guidance in revising the manuscript.

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Concept and design: Qianjin Lu, Haijing Wu, Ming Zhao, Jiao Jiang; Drafting of the manuscript: Jiao Jiang; Revising of the manuscript: Qianjin Lu, Haijing Wu, Christopher Chang, Ming Zhao, Jiao Jiang.

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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81972943 and No. 81830097) and the Hunan Talent Young Investigator (No. 2019RS2012).

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Correspondence to Haijing Wu or Qianjin Lu.

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Jiang, J., Zhao, M., Chang, C. et al. Type I Interferons in the Pathogenesis and Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol 59, 248–272 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12016-020-08798-2

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  • Autoimmune disease
  • Type I interferon signaling pathway
  • Epigenetic modifications
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Interferonopathies