The role of toll-like receptors in systemic lupus erythematosus

Springer Semin Immunopathol. 2006 Oct;28(2):131-43. doi: 10.1007/s00281-006-0034-3. Epub 2006 Sep 19.


Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies against a relatively limited range of nuclear antigens. These autoantibodies result in the formation of immune complexes that deposit in tissues and induce inflammation, thereby contributing to disease pathology. Growing evidence suggests that recognition of nucleic acid motifs by Toll-like receptors may play a role in both the activation of antinuclear B cells and in the subsequent disease progression after immune complex formation. The endosomal localization of the nucleic acid-sensing Toll-like receptors (TLRs), TLR3, 7, and 9, is believed to contribute to the distinction between endogenous nucleic acids and those of foreign origin. In this article we review recent work that suggests a role for the B-cell receptor and Fcgamma receptors in delivering nuclear antigens to intracellular compartments allowing TLR activation by endogenous nucleic acids. A number of in vitro studies have presented evidence supporting a role for TLRs in SLE pathology. However, recent studies that have examined the contributions of individual TLRs to SLE by using TLR-deficient mice suggest that the situation is far more complicated in vivo. These studies show that under different circumstances TLR signaling may either exacerbate or protect against SLE-associated pathology. Further understanding of the role of TLRs in pathological autoreactivity of the adaptive immune system will likely lead to important insights into the etiopathogenesis of SLE and potential targets for novel therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / immunology*
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Endosomes / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / genetics
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / therapy
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nucleic Acids / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Toll-Like Receptors