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J Immunol. 2012 Oct 15;189(8):3859-68. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1200940. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Receptor cross-talk spatially restricts p-ERK during TLR4 stimulation of autoreactive B cells.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


To maintain tolerance, autoreactive B cells must regulate signal transduction from the BCR and TLRs. We recently identified that dendritic cells and macrophages regulate autoreactive cells during TLR4 activation by releasing IL-6 and soluble CD40 ligand (sCD40L). These cytokines selectively repress Ab secretion from autoreactive, but not antigenically naive, B cells. How IL-6 and sCD40L repress autoantibody production is unknown. In this work, we show that IL-6 and sCD40L are required for low-affinity/avidity autoreactive B cells to maintain tolerance through a mechanism involving receptor cross-talk between the BCR, TLR4, and the IL-6R or CD40. We show that acute signaling through IL-6R or CD40 integrates with chronic BCR-mediated ERK activation to restrict p-ERK from the nucleus and represses TLR4-induced Blimp-1 and XBP-1 expression. Tolerance is disrupted in 2-12H/MRL/lpr mice where IL-6 and sCD40L fail to spatially restrict p-ERK and fail to repress TLR4-induced Ig secretion. In the case of CD40, acute signaling in B cells from 2-12H/MRL/lpr mice is intact, but the chronic activation of p-ERK emanating from the BCR is attenuated. Re-establishing chronically active ERK through retroviral expression of constitutively active MEK1 restores tolerance upon sCD40L, but not IL-6, stimulation, indicating that regulation by IL-6 requires another signaling effector. These data define the molecular basis for the regulation of low-affinity autoreactive B cells during TLR4 stimulation; they explain how autoreactive but not naive B cells are repressed by IL-6 and sCD40L; and they identify B cell defects in lupus-prone mice that lead to TLR4-induced autoantibody production.

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