Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) play a key role in antiviral immunity, but also contribute to the pathogenesis of certain autoimmune diseases, by producing large amounts of type I IFNs. Although activation of pDCs is triggered by engagement of nucleotide-sensing tolllike receptors (TLR) 7 and 9, type I IFN induction additionally requires IκB kinase (IKK) α-dependent activation of IFN regulatory factor (IRF) 7. However, the signaling pathway mediating IKK-α activation is poorly defined. We show that DOCK2, an atypical Rac activator, is essential for TLR7- and TLR9-mediated IFN-α induction in pDCs. We found that the exposure of pDCs to nucleic acid ligands induces Rac activation through a TLR-independent and DOCK2-dependent mechanism. Although this Rac activation was dispensable for induction of inflammatory cytokines, phosphorylation of IKK-α and nuclear translocation of IRF-7 were impaired in Dock2-deficient pDCs, resulting in selective loss of IFN-α induction. Similar results were obtained when a dominant-negative Rac mutant was expressed in wild-type pDCs. Thus, the DOCK2-Rac signaling pathway acts in parallel with TLR engagement to control IKK-α activation for type I IFN induction. Owing to its hematopoietic cell-specific expression, DOCK2 may serve as a therapeutic target for type I IFN-related autoimmune diseases.
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