Objectives Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase (IRAK)-M suppresses Toll-like receptor (TLR)-mediated activation of innate immunity during infection. A similar role was hypothesised for IRAK-M in autoimmunity.
Methods Irak-m-deficient mice were crossed with autoimmune C57BL/6-lpr/lpr mice and detailed phenotype analysis was performed.
Results Irak-m deficiency converted the mild autoimmune phenotype of C57BL/6-lpr/lpr mice into a massive lymphoproliferative syndrome with lethal autoimmune lung disease and lupus nephritis. Irak-m deficiency induced a number of interferon-related genes, cytokines and plasma cell survival factors in spleen cells of these mice. Irak-m-deficient C57BL/6-lpr/lpr mice showed expansion of autoreactive T cells, dysfunctional regulatory T cells and plasma cells which was associated with increased lupus autoantibody production. TLR7 antagonism almost completely abrogated this phenotype consistent with IRAK-M-mediated suppression of TLR7 signalling in vitro.
Conclusions These data identify a previously unknown function of IRAK-M—namely, suppression of TLR7-mediated autoimmunity—and mutant IRAK-M as a previously unknown genetic risk for murine SLE.
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