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J Immunol. 2003 Aug 1;171(3):1393-400.

Repetitive elements in mammalian telomeres suppress bacterial DNA-induced immune activation.

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  • 1Section of Retroviral Immunology, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Food and Drug Administration, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Bacterial DNA contains immunostimulatory CpG motifs that trigger an innate immune response capable of promoting host survival following infectious challenge. Yet CpG-driven immune activation may also have deleterious consequences, ranging from autoimmune disease to death. We find that repetitive elements present at high frequency in mammalian telomeres, but rare in bacteria, down-regulate CpG-induced immune activation. Suppressive activity correlates with the ability of telomeric TTAGGG repeats to form G-tetrads. Colocalization of CpG DNA with Toll-like receptor 9 in endosomal vesicles is disrupted by these repetitive elements, although cellular binding and uptake remain unchanged. These findings are the first to establish that specific host-derived molecules can down-regulate the innate immune response elicited by a TLR ligand.

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