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Autophagy

B cell autophagy mediates TLR7-dependent autoimmunity and inflammation.


PMID 26120731

Abstract

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a heterogeneous autoimmune disease, defined by loss of B cell self-tolerance that results in production of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and chronic inflammation. While the initiating events in lupus development are not well defined, overexpression of the RNA-recognizing toll-like receptor (TLR)7 has been linked to SLE in humans and mice. We postulated that autophagy plays an essential role in TLR7 activation of B cells for the induction of SLE by delivering RNA ligands to the endosomes, where this innate immune receptor resides. To test this hypothesis, we compared SLE development in Tlr7 transgenic (Tg) mice with or without B cell-specific ablation of autophagy (Cd19-Cre Atg5(f/f)). We observed that in the absence of B cell autophagy the 2 hallmarks of SLE, ANA and inflammation, were eliminated, thus curing these mice of lupus. This was also evident in the significantly extended survival of the autophagy-deficient mice compared to Tlr7.1 Tg mice. Furthermore, glomerulonephritis was ameliorated, and the serum levels of inflammatory cytokines in the knockout (KO) mice were indistinguishable from those of control mice. These data provide direct evidence that B cells require TLR7-dependent priming through an autophagy-dependent mechanism before autoimmunity is induced, thereafter involving many cell types. Surprisingly, hyper-IgM production persisted in Tlr7.1 Tg mice in the absence of autophagy, likely involving a different activation pathway than the production of autoantibodies. Furthermore, these mice still presented with anemia, but responded with a striking increase in extramedullary hematopoiesis (EMH), possibly due to the absence of pro-inflammatory cytokines.