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Arthritis Rheumatol. 2016 May;68(5):1099-110. doi: 10.1002/art.39544.

Identification of a Novel Toll-like Receptor 7 Endogenous Ligand in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fluid That Can Provoke Arthritic Joint Inflammation.

Author information

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and University of Illinois at Chicago.
Midwestern University, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Downers Grove, Illinois.
University of Illinois at Chicago.



Levels of Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR-7) are elevated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but the impact on RA is unknown because the endogenous ligand for TLR-7 has not been identified. The aim of this study was to identify a TLR-7 endogenous ligand and to determine its role in the pathogenesis of RA.


The presence of an endogenous TLR-7 ligand, microRNA let-7b (miR-let-7b), was examined by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Using RA knockdown cells, TLR-7-knockout mice, or antagonist, the specificity of miR-let-7b as a potential ligand for TLR-7 was tested. The mechanism by which ligation of miR-let-7b to TLR-7 promotes disease was investigated in RA myeloid cells by real-time PCR, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. We also established the effect of ectopic miR-let-7b expression on arthritic joint inflammation.


We found that a TLR-7 endogenous ligand resides mainly in RA synovial fluid macrophages. The GU-rich domain in miR-let-7b was found to be essential for TLR-7 ligation, since miR-147, the positive control for GU, was able to stimulate TLR-7+ myeloid cells, whereas miR-124, the negative, non-GU, control, was not. We demonstrated that miR-let-7b or exosomes containing miR-let-7b could transform the RA and/or mouse naive or antiinflammatory macrophages into inflammatory M1 macrophages via TLR-7 ligation. Consistently, we showed that miR-let-7b provokes arthritis by remodeling naive myeloid cells into M1 macrophages via TLR-7 ligation, since joint swelling and M1 macrophages are absent in TLR-7-deficient mice.


The results of this study underscore the importance of miR-let-7b ligation to TLR-7 in the joint during the effector phase of RA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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