The transcription factor AhR modulates immunity at multiple levels. Here we report that phagocytes exposed to apoptotic cells exhibited rapid activation of AhR, which drove production of the cytokine IL-10. Activation of AhR was dependent on interactions between apoptotic-cell DNA and the pattern-recognition receptor TLR9 that was required for the prevention of immune responses to DNA and histones in vivo. Moreover, disease progression in mouse systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) correlated with strength of the AhR signal, and the disease course could be altered by modulation of AhR activity. Deletion of AhR in the myeloid lineage caused systemic autoimmunity in mice, and an enhanced AhR transcriptional signature correlated with disease in patients with SLE. Thus, AhR activity induced by apoptotic cell phagocytes maintains peripheral tolerance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy