Tlr Ligands Act Directly upon T Cells to Restore Proliferation in the Absence of Protein Kinase C- Signaling and Promote Autoimmune Myocarditis

Marsland, B.J.; Nembrini, C.; Grun, K.; Reissmann, R.; Kurrer, M.; Leipner, C.; Kopf, M.

The Journal of Immunology 178(6): 3466-3473


DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.178.6.3466
Accession: 068490573

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The serine/threonine kinase, protein kinase C-theta (PKC-theta), plays a central role in the activation and differentiation of Th2 cells while being redundant in CD4+ and CD8+ antiviral responses. Recent evidence indicates that PKC-theta may however be required for some T cell-driven autoimmune responses. We have investigated the role of PKC-theta in the induction of autoimmune myocarditis induced by either Coxsackie B3 virus infection or immunization with alpha-myosin/CFA (experimental autoimmune myocarditis (EAM)). PKC-theta-deficient mice did not develop EAM as shown by impaired inflammatory cell infiltration into the heart, reduced CD4+ T cell IL-17 production, and the absence of a myosin-specific Ab response. Comparatively, PKC-theta was not essential for both early and late-phase Coxsackie virus-induced myocarditis. We sought to find alternate pathways of immune stimulation that might reconcile the differential requirements for PKC-theta in these two disease models. We found systemic administration of the TLR ligand CpG restored EAM in PKC-theta-deficient mice. CpG could act directly upon TLR9-expressing T cells to restore proliferation and up-regulation of Bcl-x(L), but exogenous IL-6 and TGF-beta was required for Th17 cell differentiation. Taken together, these results indicate that TLR-mediated activation of T cells can directly overcome the requirement for PKC-theta signaling and, combined with the dendritic cell-derived cytokine milieu, can promote the development of autoimmunity.