Molecular and cellular biology

Noncanonical Effects of IRF9 in Intestinal Inflammation: More than Type I and Type III Interferons.

PMID 25918247


The interferon (IFN)-stimulated gene factor 3 (ISGF3) transcription factor with its Stat1, Stat2, and interferon regulatory factor 9 (IRF9) subunits is employed for transcriptional responses downstream of receptors for type I interferons (IFN-I) that include IFN-α and IFN-β and type III interferons (IFN-III), also called IFN-λ. Here, we show in a murine model of dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis that IRF9 deficiency protects animals, whereas the combined loss of IFN-I and IFN-III receptors worsens their condition. We explain the different phenotypes by demonstrating a function of IRF9 in a noncanonical transcriptional complex with Stat1, apart from IFN-I and IFN-III signaling. Together, Stat1 and IRF9 produce a proinflammatory activity that overrides the benefits of the IFN-III response on intestinal epithelial cells. Our results further suggest that the CXCL10 chemokine gene is an important mediator of this proinflammatory activity. We thus establish IFN-λ as a potentially anticolitogenic cytokine and propose an important role for IRF9 as a component of noncanonical Stat complexes in the development of colitis.