Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease characterized by pathogenic autoantibodies against nucleoproteins and DNA. Here we show that DNA-containing immune complexes (ICs) within lupus serum (SLE-ICs), but not protein-containing ICs from other autoimmune rheumatic diseases, stimulates plasmacytoid DCs (PDCs) to produce cytokines and chemokines via a cooperative interaction between Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) and FcγRIIa (CD32). SLE-ICs transiently colocalized to a subcellular compartment containing CD32 and TLR9, and CD32+, but not CD32–, PDCs internalized and responded to SLE-ICs. Our findings demonstrate a novel functional interaction between Fc receptors and TLRs, defining a pathway in which CD32 delivers SLE-ICs to intracellular lysosomes containing TLR9, inducing a signaling cascade leading to PDC activation. These data demonstrate that endogenous DNA-containing autoantibody complexes found in the serum of patients with SLE activate the innate immune system and suggest a novel mechanism whereby these ICs contribute to the pathogenesis of this autoimmune disease.
Terry K. Means, Eicke Latz, Fumitaka Hayashi, Mandakolathur R. Murali, Douglas T. Golenbock, Andrew D. Luster