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Treatment with a JAK1/2 inhibitor ameliorates murine autoimmune cholangitis induced by IFN overexpression

  • Shao, Tihong
  • Leung, Patrick SC
  • Zhang, Weici
  • Tsuneyama, Koichi
  • Ridgway, William M
  • Young, Howard A
  • Shuai, Zongwen
  • Ansari, Aftab A
  • Gershwin, M Eric
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2022
eScholarship - University of California
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The interferon (IFN) signaling pathways are major immunological checkpoints with clinical significance in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. We have generated a unique murine model named ARE-Del, with chronic overexpression of IFNγ, by altering IFNγ metabolism. Importantly, these mice develop an immunologic and clinical profile similar to patients with primary biliary cholangitis, including high titers of autoantibodies and portal inflammation. We hypothesized that the downregulation of IFN signaling pathways with a JAK1/2 inhibitor would inhibit the development and progression of cholangitis. To study this hypothesis, ARE-Del+/- mice were treated with the JAK1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib and serially studied. JAK inhibition resulted in a significant reduction in portal inflammation and bile duct damage, associated with a significant reduction in splenic and hepatic CD4+ T cells and CD8+ T cells. Functionally, ruxolitinib inhibited the secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines IFNγ and TNF from splenic CD4+ T cells. Additionally, ruxolitinib treatment also decreased the frequencies of germinal center B (GC B) cells and T follicular helper (Tfh) cells and led to lower serological AMA levels. Of note, liver and peritoneal macrophages were sharply decreased and polarized from M1 to M2 with a higher level of IRF4 expression after ruxolitinib treatment. Mechanistically, ruxolitinib inhibited the secretion of IL-6, TNF and MCP1 and the expression of STAT1 but promoted the expression of STAT6 in macrophages in vitro, indicating that M1 macrophage polarization to M2 occurred through activation of the STAT6-IRF4 pathway. Our data highlight the significance, both immunologically and clinically, of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway in autoimmune cholangitis.

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