Regulation of the innate immune system
McGlasson, Sarah Louise
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The innate immune system is the first line of defence against pathogen invasion. The range of diseases that are caused by deficiencies in or deregulation of the innate immune system illustrates the importance of maintaining an effective balance between clearance of infectious agents and minimisation of inflammatory mediated tissue damage. This thesis explores the role of two proteins in the regulation of the innate immune system. Primarily, this work investigates the effect of human β-defensin 3 (hBD3) on the response to self-DNA and pathogenic DNA. HBD3 is an antimicrobial peptide (AMP), which has been shown to have a role in regulating the immune response; increased copy number of the region containing the gene for hBD3, DEFB103, is linked to an increased risk of psoriasis. Additionally, a similar cationic AMP, LL37, has been shown to exacerbate the pathogenesis of psoriasis by forming an immunogenic complex with self-DNA. This lead to the hypothesis that hBD3 may also affect the innate immune response to DNA. Therefore this project investigates what effect hBD3 has on the response of the innate immune system to self and pathogenic DNA. Flt-3 dendritic cells were used to show that whilst hBD3 increased cellular uptake of self-DNA, it did not convert self-DNA into an immune stimulus. However, hBD3 significantly exacerbated the response to bacterial DNA in a TLR9-dependent manner, also by increasing cellular uptake into FLDCs. The finding that hBD3 increased cellular uptake of both self- and pathogenic DNA suggests that at sites of infection or increased cell death, where DNA would be found in the extracellular environment, hBD3 may increase uptake into immune cells and could induce an increased immune response. Since increased hBD3 expression is induced by inflammatory stimuli, this process would cause a positive feedback loop of inflammation during bacterial infections. In conclusion, hBD3’s role in regulating the innate immune response to DNA is at the ligand-receptor level rather than affecting signalling pathways. Furthermore, hBD3 promotes the innate immune response to bacterial DNA by increasing the efficiency of cellular uptake possibly by inducing DNA aggregation. These results implicate a possible role for hBD3 in the earliest stages of psoriatic plaque development, which is often initiated or exacerbated by an infection, and this could be investigated further. Secondly, I investigated the innate immune function of an E3 ubiquitin ligase (E3L) not previously associated with human disease. Mutations in E3L have been identified in three microcephalic primordial dwarfism families; these patients also presented with recurrent respiratory illnesses. E3L has been implicated in the regulation of the innate immune system via interactions with signalling pathways downstream of the receptor, though its role is not clear. We hypothesised that E3L had a dual role both in regulating growth and cell division and in regulating the immune system. Primary patient fibroblasts did not demonstrate an altered cytokine response to bacterial or viral ligands, implying that E3L may have a specific function in immune cells. To investigate this further, and to provide a system to study E3L in vivo, two transgenic mouse lines were designed and engineered, firstly a conditional ‘knock-out’ designed to replicate some of the alternative isoforms of E3L seen in RT-PCRs, and secondly a ‘knock-in’ line to recapitulate the human mutation in exon 7 of E3L, R185X. These mouse lines should offer an insight into the developmental role for E3L, and contribute to establishing a potential role for E3L in the innate immune system. This thesis exemplifies the complexity of the innate immune system and the regulatory pathways that interact to maintain a delicate homeostasis preventing pathogenic inflammation. Understanding these regulatory mechanisms may shed light on the pathogenicity of diseases and identification of potential targets for therapeutics.