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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Hydroxychloroquine is associated with impaired interferon-alpha and tumor necrosis factor-alpha production by plasmacytoid dendritic cells in systemic lupus erythematosus

Karim Sacre12, Lindsey A Criswell3 and Joseph M McCune1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Experimental Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California San Francisco, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

2 Department of Medicine, Division of Internal Medicine, APHP, Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital, Paris Diderot University, 46 rue Henri Huchard, Paris, 75018 France

3 Department of Medicine, Rosalind Russell Medical Research Center for Arthritis, University of California San Francisco, 374 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R155  doi:10.1186/ar3895

Published: 27 June 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) constitutively express two members of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) family, TLR-9 and TLR-7, through which they can be stimulated to produce high levels of interferon (IFN)-α, a key mediator of the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Given the known efficacy of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the treatment of SLE, we examined its ability to inhibit such pDC function in vivo.

Methods

Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from SLE subjects treated or not with HCQ and from healthy controls were stimulated with the TLR-9 agonist, CpG oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG-A ODN)-2216, and the TLR-7 agonist, imiquimod. The proportion of monocytes, B cells, myeloid dendritic cells, pDCs, and natural killer (NK) cells producing IFN-α and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) was then analyzed by multiparameter flow cytometry.

Results

After TLR-9/7 stimulation in both SLE and healthy subjects, significant production of IFN-α and TNF-α was only observed in pDCs. TLR-7 and TLR-9 induced IFN-α and TNF-α production by pDCs from subjects with SLE was decreased relative to that found in controls (TLR-9/IFN-α, P < 0.0001; TLR-9/TNF-α P < 0.0001; TLR-7/TNF-α P = 0.01). TLR-9 and TLR-7 induced IFN-α and TNF-α production by pDCs was severely impaired in 36% (TLR-9) and 33% (TLR-7) of SLE subjects. In almost all cases, these subjects were being treated with HCQ (HCQ vs. no HCQ: impaired TLR-9/IFN-α, P = 0.0003; impaired TLR-7/IFN-α, P = 0.07; impaired TLR-9/TNF-α, P < 0.009; impaired TLR-7/TNF-α, P < 0.01).

Conclusions

Treatment with HCQ is associated with impaired ability of pDCs from subjects with SLE to produce IFN-α and TNF-α upon stimulation with TLR-9 and TLR-7 agonists.