Intracellular nucleic acid sensors and autoimmunity

J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2011 Dec;31(12):867-86. doi: 10.1089/jir.2011.0092. Epub 2011 Oct 27.


A collection of molecular sensors has been defined by studies in the last decade that can recognize a diverse array of pathogens and initiate protective immune and inflammatory responses. However, if the molecular signatures recognized are shared by both foreign and self-molecules, as is the case of nucleic acids, then the responses initiated by these sensors may have deleterious consequences. Notably, this adverse occurrence may be of primary importance in autoimmune disease pathogenesis. In this case, microbe-induced damage or mishandled physiologic processes could lead to the generation of microparticles containing self-nucleic acids. These particles may inappropriately gain access to the cytosol or endolysosomes and, hence, engage resident RNA and DNA sensors. Evidence, as reviewed here, strongly indicates that these sensors are primary contributors to autoimmune disease pathogenesis, spearheading efforts toward development of novel therapeutics for these disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Cytosol / immunology
  • Humans
  • Models, Immunological
  • Nucleic Acids / immunology*
  • Organelles / immunology
  • Organelles / metabolism
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Autoantigens
  • Nucleic Acids
  • Receptors, Immunologic