Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

B cell-intrinsic TLR7 signaling is essential for the development of spontaneous germinal centers.

PMID 25252960


Spontaneous germinal center (Spt-GC) B cells and follicular helper T cells generate high-affinity autoantibodies that are involved in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus. TLRs play a pivotal role in systemic lupus erythematosus pathogenesis. Although previous studies focused on the B cell-intrinsic role of TLR-MyD88 signaling on immune activation, autoantibody repertoire, and systemic inflammation, the mechanisms by which TLRs control the formation of Spt-GCs remain unclear. Using nonautoimmune C57BL/6 (B6) mice deficient in MyD88, TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, or TLR9, we identified B cell-intrinsic TLR7 signaling as a prerequisite to Spt-GC formation without the confounding effects of autoimmune susceptibility genes and the overexpression of TLRs. TLR7 deficiency also rendered autoimmune B6.Sle1b mice unable to form Spt-GCs, leading to markedly decreased autoantibodies. Conversely, B6.yaa and B6.Sle1b.yaa mice expressing an extra copy of TLR7 and B6.Sle1b mice treated with a TLR7 agonist had increased Spt-GCs and follicular helper T cells. Further, TLR7/MyD88 deficiency led to compromised B cell proliferation and survival after B cell stimulation both in vitro and in vivo. In contrast, TLR9 inhibited Spt-GC development. Our findings demonstrate an absolute requirement for TLR7 and a negative regulatory function for TLR9 in Spt-GC formation under nonautoimmune and autoimmune conditions. Our data suggest that, under nonautoimmune conditions, Spt-GCs initiated by TLR7 produce protective Abs. However, in the presence of autoimmune susceptibility genes, TLR7-dependent Spt-GCs produce pathogenic autoantibodies. Thus, a single copy of TLR7 in B cells is the minimal requirement for breaking the GC-tolerance checkpoint.