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J Immunol. 2011 Apr 1;186(7):4213-22. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1003585. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

A point mutation in the amino terminus of TLR7 abolishes signaling without affecting ligand binding.

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Immunology US, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


TLR7 is the mammalian receptor for ssRNA and some nucleotide-like small molecules. We have generated a mouse by N-nitrose-N'-ethyl urea mutagenesis in which threonine 68 of TLR7 was substituted with isoleucine. Cells bearing this mutant TLR7 lost the sensitivity to the small-molecule TLR7 agonist resiquimod, hence the name TLR7(rsq1). In this work, we report the characterization of this mutant protein. Similar to the wild-type counterpart, TLR7(rsq1) localizes to the endoplasmic reticulum and is expressed at normal levels in both primary cells and reconstituted 293T cells. In addition to small-molecule TLR7 agonists, TLR7(rsq1) fails to be activated by ssRNA. Whole-transcriptome analysis demonstrates that TLR7 is the exclusive and indispensable receptor for both classes of ligands, consistent with the fact that both ligands induce highly similar transcriptional signatures in TLR7(wt/wt) splenocytes. Thus, TLR7(rsq1) is a bona fide phenocopy of the TLR7 null mouse. Because TLR7(rsq1) binds to ssRNA, our studies imply that the N-terminal portion of TLR7 triggers a yet to be identified event on TLR7. TLR7(rsq1) mice might represent a valuable tool to help elucidate novel aspects of TLR7 biology.

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