The lupus susceptibility allele DRB1*03:01 encodes a disease-driving epitope.

28 Jul 2022
Miglioranza Scavuzzi B, van Drongelen V, Kaur B, Fox JC, Liu J, Mesquita-Ferrari RA, Kahlenberg JM, Farkash EA, Benavides F, Miller FW, Sawalha AH, Holoshitz J

The HLA-DRB1*03:01 allele is a major genetic risk factor in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but the mechanistic basis of the association is unclear. Here we show that in the presence of interferon gamma (IFN-γ), a short DRB1*03:01-encoded allelic epitope activates a characteristic lupus transcriptome in mouse and human macrophages. It also triggers a cascade of SLE-associated cellular aberrations, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, unfolded protein response, mitochondrial dysfunction, necroptotic cell death, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Parenteral administration of IFN-γ to naïve DRB1*03:01 transgenic mice causes increased serum levels of anti-double stranded DNA antibodies, glomerular immune complex deposition and histopathological renal changes that resemble human lupus nephritis. This study provides evidence for a noncanonical, antigen presentation-independent mechanism of HLA-disease association in SLE and could lay new foundations for our understanding of key molecular mechanisms that trigger and propagate this devastating autoimmune disease.