Arthritis research & therapy

Increased expression of Mer tyrosine kinase in circulating dendritic cells and monocytes of lupus patients: correlations with plasma interferon activity and steroid therapy.

PMID 24650765


The requirement for the immunoregulatory Mer tyrosine kinase (Mer) for optimal removal of apoptotic cells prompted us to look at its expression in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), in which apoptotic cell clearance is abnormal. We compared the levels of expression of Mer in normal human subjects and in patients with SLE. We used flow cytometry of isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells to compare the levels of Mer on leukocyte subsets. We used a Mer-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to quantify soluble Mer (sMer) in plasmas. Monocytes, CD1c⁺ myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs), and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) from both normal individuals and from SLE patients expressed Mer. In both normal and SLE patients, the CD14⁺⁺CD16⁺ subpopulation of monocytes expressed the highest levels of Mer, with somewhat lower levels on the CD14(int)CD16⁺ population. Mer levels on CD1c⁺ mDCs and pDCs, and sMer levels in blood were increased in SLE patients compared with controls. In patients, Mer levels on CD14(int)CD16⁺, CD14⁺⁺CD16⁻ monocytes, and CD1c⁺ dendritic cells correlated positively with type I interferon (IFN-I) activity detected in blood. In SLE patients treated with corticosteroids, Mer expression on monocytes correlated with prednisone dose, CD1c⁺ myeloid dendritic cells in patients treated with prednisone had higher levels of Mer expression than those in patients not receiving prednisone. We found no global defect in Mer expression in lupus blood. In contrast, we observed increased levels of Mer expression in DC populations, which could represent a response to increased IFN-I in SLE patients. Enhanced Mer expression induced by corticosteroids may contribute to its beneficial effects in SLE.