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OBJECTIVES:TLR3 mediates skin solar injury by binding nuclear material released from apoptotic keratinocytes, resulting in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Because the TLR3 gene is located in 4q35, a known systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) susceptibility locus, we wondered whether TLR3 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with inflammatory mechanisms relevant to the development of SLE, and disease susceptibility. METHODS:Functional assays were carried out in TLR3-transfected HEK293 cells and in monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDCs). TLR3 and IFNβ immunofluorescence studies were performed in skin samples from 7 SLE patients and 3 controls. We performed a SNP association study in a discovery cohort of 153 patients and 105 controls, followed by a confirmation study in an independent cohort of 1,380 patients and 2,104 controls. RESULTS:TLR3 and IFNβ are overexpressed in SLE skin lesions. TLR3 overexpression in HEK293 cells amplifies their sensitivity to a pro-apoptotic stimulus. Taking advantage of a naturally occurring polymorphic TLR3 variant (rs3775291) that weakly versus strongly responds to poly I:C stimulation, we found that TLR3 is associated with amplified apoptotic responses, production of the Ro/SSA autoantigen and increased maturation of myeloid-derived dendritic cells (moDC) after exposure to UV irradiation. However, TLR3 SNPs are not associated with susceptibility to SLE in a large population of patients and controls. CONCLUSIONS:TLR3 is overexpressed in SLE skin lesions and amplifies apoptotic and inflammatory responses to UV-irradiation in antigen-presenting cells in vitro. However, TLR3 SNPs do not impact susceptibility to the development of the disease.


Journal article


Clinical and experimental rheumatology

Publication Date



Pôle de Pathologies Rhumatismales Systémiques et Inflammatoires, Institut de Recherche Expérimentale et Clinique, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.