Nucleic acids and endosomal pattern recognition: how to tell friend from foe?

Cell host & microbe

PubMedID: 23908972

Brencicova E, Diebold SS. Nucleic acids and endosomal pattern recognition: how to tell friend from foe?. Cell Host Microbe. 2013;337.
The innate immune system has evolved endosomal and cytoplasmic receptors for the detection of viral nucleic acids as sensors for virus infection. Some of these pattern recognition receptors (PRR) detect features of viral nucleic acids that are not found in the host such as long stretches of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and uncapped single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) in case of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 3 and RIG-I, respectively. In contrast, TLR7/8 and TLR9 are unable to distinguish between viral and self-nucleic acids on the grounds of distinct molecular patterns. The ability of these endosomal TLR to act as PRR for viral nucleic acids seems to rely solely on the mode of access to the endolysosomal compartment in which recognition takes place. The current dogma states that self-nucleic acids do not enter the TLR-sensing compartment under normal physiological conditions. However, it is still poorly understood how dendritic cells (DC) evade activation by self-nucleic acids, in particular with regard to specific DC subsets, which are specialized in taking up material from dying cells for cross-presentation of cell-associated antigens. In this review we discuss the current understanding of how the immune system distinguishes between foreign and self-nucleic acids and point out some of the key aspects that still require further research and clarification.