A FOXO3-IRF7 gene regulatory circuit limits inflammatory sequelae of antiviral responses
Antiviral responses must be tightly regulated to defend rapidly against infection while minimizing inflammatory damage. Type 1 interferons (IFN-I) are crucial mediators of antiviral responses and their transcription is regulated by a variety of transcription factors; principal among these is the family of interferon regulatory factors (IRFs). The IRF gene regulatory networks are complex and contain multiple feedback loops. The tools of systems biology are well suited to elucidate the complex interactions that give rise to precise coordination of the interferon response. Here we have used an unbiased systems approach to predict that a member of the forkhead family of transcription factors, FOXO3, is a negative regulator of a subset of antiviral genes. This prediction was validated using macrophages isolated from Foxo3-null mice. Genome-wide location analysis combined with gene deletion studies identified the Irf7 gene as a critical target of FOXO3. FOXO3 was identified as a negative regulator of Irf7 transcription and we have further demonstrated that FOXO3, IRF7 and IFN-I form a coherent feed-forward regulatory circuit. Our data suggest that the FOXO3IRF7 regulatory circuit represents a novel mechanism for establishing the requisite set points in the interferon pathway that balances the beneficial effects and deleterious sequelae of the antiviral response.