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PLoS Pathog. 2011 May;7(5):e1001345. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001345. Epub 2011 May 19.

Type I interferon production induced by Streptococcus pyogenes-derived nucleic acids is required for host protection.

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Max F. Perutz Laboratories, Department of Microbiology, Immunobiology and Genetics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Streptococcus pyogenes is a Gram-positive human pathogen that is recognized by yet unknown pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Engagement of these receptor molecules during infection with S. pyogenes, a largely extracellular bacterium with limited capacity for intracellular survival, causes innate immune cells to produce inflammatory mediators such as TNF, but also type I interferon (IFN). Here we show that signaling elicited by type I IFNs is required for successful defense of mice against lethal subcutaneous cellulitis caused by S. pyogenes. Type I IFN signaling was accompanied with reduced neutrophil recruitment to the site of infection. Mechanistic analysis revealed that macrophages and conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) employ different signaling pathways leading to IFN-beta production. Macrophages required IRF3, STING, TBK1 and partially MyD88, whereas in cDCs the IFN-beta production was fully dependent on IRF5 and MyD88. Furthermore, IFN-beta production by macrophages was dependent on the endosomal delivery of streptococcal DNA, while in cDCs streptococcal RNA was identified as the IFN-beta inducer. Despite a role of MyD88 in both cell types, the known IFN-inducing TLRs were individually not required for generation of the IFN-beta response. These results demonstrate that the innate immune system employs several strategies to efficiently recognize S. pyogenes, a pathogenic bacterium that succeeded in avoiding recognition by the standard arsenal of TLRs.

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