In juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), the most common pediatric inflammatory myopathy, weakness is accompanied by a characteristic rash that often becomes chronic and is associated with vascular damage. We hoped to understand the molecular underpinnings of JDM, particularly when untreated, which would facilitate the identification of novel mechanisms and clinical targets that might disrupt disease progression. We studied the RNA-Seq data from untreated JDM peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs; n = 11), PBMCs from a subset of the same patients when clinically inactive (n = 8/11), and separate samples of untreated JDM skin and muscle (n = 4 each). All JDM samples were compared to non-inflammatory control tissues. The untreated JDM PBMCs showed a strong signature for type1 interferon response, along with IL-1, IL-10, and NF-κB. Surprisingly, PBMCs from clinically inactive JDM individuals had persistent immune activation that was enriched for IL-1 signaling. JDM skin and muscle both showed evidence for type 1 interferon activation and genes related to antigen presentation and decreased expression of cellular respiration genes. Additionally, we found that PBMC gene expression correlates with disease activity scores (DAS; skin, muscle, and total domains) and with nailfold capillary end row loop number (an indicator of microvascular damage). This included otoferlin, which was significantly increased in untreated JDM PBMCs and correlated with all 3 DAS domains. Overall, these data demonstrate that PBMC transcriptomes are informative of molecular disruptions in JDM and provide transcriptional evidence of chronic inflammation despite clinical quiescence.
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