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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 May 27;100(11):6646-51. Epub 2003 May 8.

Molecular basis for the immunostimulatory activity of guanine nucleoside analogs: activation of Toll-like receptor 7.

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Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0663, USA.


Certain C8-substituted and N7, C8-disubstituted guanine ribonucleosides comprise a class of small molecules with immunostimulatory activity. In a variety of animal models, these agents stimulate both humoral and cellular immune responses. The antiviral actions of these guanosine analogs have been attributed to their ability to induce type I IFNs. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the guanosine analogs potentiate immune responses are not known. Here, we report that several guanosine analogs activate Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7). 7-Thia-8-oxoguanosine, 7-deazaguanosine, and related guanosine analogs activated mouse immune cells in a manner analogous to known TLR ligands, inducing cytokine production in mouse splenocytes (IL-6 and IL-12, type I and II IFNs), bone marrow-derived macrophages (IL-6 and IL-12), and in human peripheral blood leukocytes (type I IFNs, tumor necrosis factor alpha and IL-12). The guanosine congeners also up-regulated costimulatory molecules and MHC I/II in dendritic cells. Genetic complementation studies in human embryonic kidney 293 cells confirmed that the guanosine analogs activate cells exclusively via TLR7. The stimulation of TLR7 by the guanosine analogs in human cells appears to require endosomal maturation because inhibition of this process with chloroquine significantly reduced the downstream activation of NF-kappaB. However, TLR8 activation by R-848 and TLR2 activation by [S-[2,3-bis(palmitoyloxy)-(2-RS)-propyl]-N-palmitoyl-R-Cys-S-Ser-Lys4-OH, trihydrochloride)] were not inhibited by chloroquine, whereas TLR9 activation by CpG oligodeoxynucleotides was abolished. In summary, we present evidence that guanosine analogs activate immune cells via TLR7 by a pathway that requires endosomal maturation. Thus, the B cell-stimulating and antiviral activities of the guanosine analogs may be explained by their TLR7-activating capacity.

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