Infections and inflammation are profoundly influenced by the extracellular matrix (ECM), but their molecular underpinnings are ill defined. Here, we demonstrate that lumican, an ECM protein normally associated with collagens, is elevated in sepsis patients' blood, while lumican-null mice resolve polymicrobial sepsis poorly, with reduced bacterial clearance and greater body weight loss. Secreted by activated fibroblasts, lumican promotes Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 response to bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) but restricts nucleic acid-specific TLR9 in macrophages and dendritic cells. The underlying mechanism involves lumican attachment to the common TLR coreceptor CD14 and caveolin 1 (Cav1) in lipid rafts on immune cell surfaces via two epitopes, which may be cryptic in collagen-associated lumican. The Cav1 binding epitope alone is sufficient for cell surface enrichment of Cav1, while both are required for lumican to increase cell surface TLR4, CD14, and proinflammatory cytokines in response to LPS. Endocytosed lumican colocalizes with TLR4 and LPS and promotes endosomal induction of type I interferons. Lumican-null macrophages show elevated TLR9 in signal-permissive endolysosomes and increased response, while wild types show lumican colocalization with CpG DNA but not TLR9, consistent with a ligand sequestering, restrictive role for lumican in TLR9 signaling. In vitro, lumican competes with CD14 to bind CpG DNA; biglycan, a lumican paralog, also binds CpG DNA and suppresses TLR9 response. Thus, lumican and other ECM proteins, synthesized de novo or released from collagen association during ECM remodeling, may be internalized by immune cells to regulate their transcriptional programs and effector responses that may be harnessed in future therapeutics.
Keywords: TLR; inflammation; lumican; macrophage; sepsis.