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J Immunol. 2008 Jun 1;180(11):7728-35.

The Mer receptor tyrosine kinase is required for the loss of B cell tolerance in the chronic graft-versus-host disease model of systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The Mer receptor tyrosine kinase mediates apoptotic cell phagocytosis and modulates macrophage cytokine production. Mer(-/-) mice have defective clearance of apoptotic debris and develop a systemic lupus erythematosus-like autoimmune syndrome. It was surprising then that B6-Mer(-/-) recipients of bm12 spleen cells failed to develop anti-dsDNA and anti-chromatin autoantibodies, whereas B6 hosts produced the expected autoimmune chronic graft-vs-host (cGVH) reaction. The lack of autoantibody formation in cGVH was not due to the failure of Mer-deficient hosts to provoke alloreactivity, because Mer(-/-) spleen cells were recognized by bm12 T cells in MLR. Cell transfer experiments in Rag-knockout mice indicated that the lack of autoantibody production in Mer(-/-) cGVH disease hosts was due to an intrinsic B cell defect. This defect did not cause a global inability to produce autoantibodies, because in vivo exposure to LPS stimulated production of autoantibodies in both B6 and Mer(-/-) mice. We further observed that wild-type B6 B cells up-regulated Mer upon activation in cGVH, and that B cells from mice lacking Mer showed a decreased up-regulation of activation-associated cell surface markers. These findings indicate that Mer serves an important role in the activation of self-reactive B cells in systemic autoimmunity.

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