Activation of autoreactive B cells by CpG dsDNA

Immunity. 2003 Dec;19(6):837-47. doi: 10.1016/s1074-7613(03)00323-6.


The proliferative response of autoreactive rheumatoid factor (RF) B cells to mammalian chromatin-containing immune complexes (ICs) results from the sequential engagement of the B cell receptor (BCR) and Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9). We have used ICs constructed from anti-hapten antibodies and defined haptenated dsDNA fragments to determine the form of mammalian DNA that mediates this process. Despite their relatively low abundance in mammalian DNA, we found that inclusion of hypomethylated CpG motifs in these ICs was necessary for effective activation. In the absence of antibody, the same fragments could efficiently stimulate low-affinity hapten-specific and DNA-reactive 3H9 B cells, but not RF B cells. These results extend the BCR/TLR9 coengagement paradigm to a second major class of autoreactive B cells, further confirm the critical role of the BCR in chromatin ligand delivery to TLR9, and implicate hypomethylated CpG motifs as ligand elements necessary for the initiation of systemic autoimmune disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • Autoimmunity*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Chromatin / immunology
  • CpG Islands / immunology*
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / immunology


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Chromatin
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell
  • Cyclosporine