Recognition of nucleic acids by pattern-recognition receptors and its relevance in autoimmunity

Immunol Rev. 2011 Sep;243(1):61-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2011.01048.x.


Host cells trigger signals for innate immune responses upon recognition of conserved structures in microbial pathogens. Nucleic acids, which are critical components for inheriting genetic information in all species including pathogens, are key structures sensed by the innate immune system. The corresponding receptors for foreign nucleic acids include members of Toll-like receptors, RIG-I-like receptors, and intracellular DNA sensors. While nucleic acid recognition by these receptors is required for host defense against the pathogen, there is a potential risk to the host of self-nucleic acids recognition, thus precipitating autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases. In this review, we discuss the roles of nucleic acid-sensing receptors in guarding against pathogen invasion, discriminating between self and non-self, and contributing to autoimmunity and autoinflammatory diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / microbiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / virology
  • Autoimmunity
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / immunology
  • DNA, Viral / chemistry
  • DNA, Viral / immunology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Infections / immunology*
  • Nucleic Acids / immunology*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / immunology
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology*
  • Risk
  • Signal Transduction


  • Autoantigens
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Viral
  • Nucleic Acids
  • RNA, Viral
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition