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J Immunol. 2009 Jan 15;182(2):820-8.

TLR4 ligands induce IFN-alpha production by mouse conventional dendritic cells and human monocytes after IFN-beta priming.

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  • 1Renal Section, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Exacerbation of disease in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with bacterial infection. In conventional dendritic cells (cDCs), the TLR4 ligand bacterial LPS induces IFN-beta gene expression but does not induce IFN-alpha. We hypothesized that when cDCs are primed by cytokines, as may frequently be the case in SLE, LPS would then induce the production of IFN-alpha, a cytokine believed to be important in lupus pathogenesis. In this study we show that mouse cDCs and human monocytes produce abundant IFN-alpha following TLR4 engagement whether the cells have been pretreated either with IFN-beta or with a supernatant from DCs activated by RNA-containing immune complexes from lupus patients. This TLR4-induced IFN-alpha induction is mediated by both an initial TRIF-dependent pathway and a subsequent MyD88-dependent pathway, in contrast to TLR3-induced IFN-alpha production, which is entirely TRIF-dependent. There is also a distinct requirement for IFN regulatory factors (IRFs), with LPS-induced IFN-alpha induction being entirely IRF7- and partially IRF5-dependent, in contrast to LPS-induced IFN-beta gene induction which is known to be IRF3-dependent but largely IRF7-independent. This data demonstrates a novel pathway for IFN-alpha production by cDCs and provides one possible explanation for how bacterial infection might precipitate disease flares in SLE.

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