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

Chetna Soni, Eric B. Wong, Phillip P. Domeier, Tahsin N. Khan, Takashi Satoh, Shizuo Akira, Ziaur S.M. Rahman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4400-4414
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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