RNase 7 is one of the major antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) secreted by keratinocytes. The AMPs human beta defensin 2 and LL-37 promote the toll-like receptor 9-mediated activation of human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) by human self-DNA; however, whether keratinocytes respond in a similar way has not yet been addressed. Keratinocytes express several receptors for the detection of cytosolic DNA. Here, we investigated the activation of keratinocytes by RNase 7 in combination with human DNA. The stimulation of keratinocytes with RNase 7 and human DNA induced a strong increase in the production of IP-10. Of note, the stimulation of keratinocytes with human beta defensin 2 and LL-37 in combination with DNA failed to induce the production of IP-10. The production of IP-10 was mediated by the induction of the type I interferon IFN-β and was significantly downregulated by blocking of the interferon-α/β receptor and inhibition of stimulator of IFN genes. In addition, the pretreatment of keratinocytes with RNase 7 and DNA significantly reduced the herpes simplex virus-1 infection of human keratinocytes. This study demonstrates that RNase 7 functions as an alarmin by converting self-DNA into a danger signal that directly activates an antiviral immune response in human keratinocytes without the involvement of plasmacytoid dendritic cells.
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