The ubiquitin-editing protein a20 prevents dendritic cell activation, recognition of apoptotic cells, and systemic autoimmunity
Dendritic cells (DCs) regulate both immunity and tolerance. Here we have shown that the ubiquitin editing enzyme A20 (Tnfaip3) determines the activation threshold of DCs, via control of canonical NF-κB activation. Tnfaip3fl/flCd11c-cre+mice lacking A20 in DCs demonstrated spontaneous proliferation of conventional and double-negative T cells, their conversion to interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-producing effector cells, and expansion of plasma cells. They developed ds-DNA antibodies, nephritis, the antiphospholipid syndrome, and lymphosplenomegaly-features of systemic lupus erythematosus-and extramedullary hematopoiesis. A20-deficient DCs were resistant to apoptosis, caused by increased sensitivity to CD40L and RANKL prosurvival signals and upregulation of antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-x. They captured injected apoptotic cells more efficiently, resisted the inhibitory effects of apoptotic cells, and induced self-reactive effector lymphocytes. Because genetic polymorphisms in TNFAIP3 are associated with human autoimmune disorders, these findings identify A20-mediated control of DC activation as a crucial checkpoint in the development of systemic autoimmunity.