Research ArticleCELL BIOLOGY

Inhibition of IRF5 cellular activity with cell-penetrating peptides that target homodimerization

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Science Advances  15 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 20, eaay1057
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay1057


The transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) plays essential roles in pathogen-induced immunity downstream of Toll-, nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain–, and retinoic acid–inducible gene I–like receptors and is an autoimmune susceptibility gene. Normally, inactive in the cytoplasm, upon stimulation, IRF5 undergoes posttranslational modification(s), homodimerization, and nuclear translocation, where dimers mediate proinflammatory gene transcription. Here, we report the rational design of cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) that disrupt IRF5 homodimerization. Biochemical and imaging analysis shows that IRF5-CPPs are cell permeable, noncytotoxic, and directly bind to endogenous IRF5. IRF5-CPPs were selective and afforded cell type– and species-specific inhibition. In plasmacytoid dendritic cells, inhibition of IRF5-mediated interferon-α production corresponded to a dose-dependent reduction in nuclear phosphorylated IRF5 [p(Ser462)IRF5], with no effect on pIRF5 levels. These data support that IRF5-CPPs function downstream of phosphorylation. Together, data support the utility of IRF5-CPPs as novel tools to probe IRF5 activation and function in disease.

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