Interferon α and its contribution to autoimmunity

Carlo Selmi, Ana Lleo, Massimo Zuin, Mauro Podda, Lorenzo Rossaro, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


It is now well accepted that interferon (IFN)α plays a critical role in the pathogenesis and perpetuation of specific autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythemtosus (SLE), autoimmune thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes. IFNα-based treatments are widely used for the treatment of chronic viral infections, particularly chronic hepatitis C virus infection; however, several case reports have emerged describing autoimmune conditions that have developed during IFNα therapy. The data support the pathogenic potential of IFNα in autoimmunity, although it is clear that genetic and environmental factors are also key to the development of autoimmune conditions. Several points of interaction between IFNα and immune effector cells have been experimentally defined, the functional consequences of many of which remain poorly understood. This review describes the most recent data in support of an important role for IFNα in autoimmunity, particularly SLE, and the potential mechanisms by which IFNα contributes to immune dysfunction. Future approaches to IFNα modulation as a therapeutic strategy for use in the treatment of autoimmune diseases are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-456
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Investigational Drugs
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Auto-antibodies
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cytokines
  • Dendritic cells
  • Interferon α
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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