Mediator kinase inhibition suppresses hyperactive interferon signaling in Down syndrome. Journal Article uri icon



  • Hyperactive interferon (IFN) signaling is a hallmark of Down syndrome (DS), a condition caused by trisomy 21 (T21); strategies that normalize IFN signaling could benefit this population. Mediator-associated kinases CDK8 and CDK19 drive inflammatory responses through incompletely understood mechanisms. Using sibling-matched cell lines with/without T21, we investigated Mediator kinase function in the context of hyperactive IFN in DS. Activation of IFN-response genes was suppressed in cells treated with the CDK8/CDK19 inhibitor cortistatin A, and this occurred through suppression of IFN-responsive transcription factor activity. Moreover, we discovered that CDK8/CDK19 affect splicing, a novel means by which Mediator kinases control gene expression. Kinase inhibition altered splicing in pathway-specific ways and selectively affected IFN-responsive gene splicing in T21 cells. To further probe Mediator kinase function, we completed cytokine screens and untargeted metabolomics experiments. Cytokines are master regulators of inflammatory responses; by screening 105 different cytokine proteins, we show that Mediator kinases help drive IFN-dependent cytokine responses at least in part through transcriptional regulation of cytokine genes and receptors. Metabolomics revealed that Mediator kinase inhibition altered core metabolic pathways, including broad up-regulation of anti-inflammatory lipid mediators. Elevated levels of lipid mediators persisted at least 24hr after Mediator kinase inhibition, and many identified lipids serve as ligands for nuclear receptors (e.g. PPAR, LXR) or G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs; e.g. FFAR4). Notably, ligand-dependent activation of these GPCRs or nuclear receptors will propagate anti-inflammatory signaling pathways and gene expression programs, and this mechanistic link suggests that metabolic changes caused by CDK8/CDK19 inhibition can durably and independently suppress pro-inflammatory IFN responses. Collectively, our results establish that Mediator kinase inhibition antagonizes IFN signaling through transcriptional, metabolic, and cytokine responses, with implications for DS and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

publication date

  • December 13, 2023

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • August 30, 2023 1:09 AM

Full Author List

  • Cozzolino K; Sanford L; Hunter S; Molison K; Erickson B; Jones T; Ajit D; Galbraith MD; Espinosa JM; Bentley DL

author count

  • 13

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