Human TLR7 and 8 (hTLR7/8) have been implicated in the sequence-dependent detection of RNA oligonucleotides in immune cells. Although hTLR7 sequence-specific sensing of short RNAs has been inferred from studies of murine TLR7, this has yet to be established for hTLR7. We found that different short ssRNA sequences selectively induced either TNFα or IFNα in human PBMCs. The sequence-specific TNF-alpha response to ssRNAs observed in PBMCs could be replicated in activated human macrophage-like (THP-1) cells pretreated with IFNγ. Surprisingly, suppression of hTLR7 expression by RNA interference in this model reduced sensing of all immunostimulatory ssRNAs tested. Modulation of the relative expression ratio of hTLR7 to hTLR8 in THP-1 cells correlated with differential sensing of immunostimulatory sequences. Furthermore, the sequence-specific IFNα induction profile in human PBMCs was accurately modeled by a sequence-specific activation of murine TLR7 in mouse macrophages. Thus, we demonstrate for the first time that hTLR7 is involved in sequence-specific sensing of ssRNAs. We establish a novel cell model for the prediction of TNFα induction by short RNAs in human macrophages. Our results suggest that differential sequence-specific sensing of RNA oligonucleotides between human and mouse macrophages is due to the modulation of TLR7 sensing by human TLR8.
Journal of Immunology Vol. 180, Issue 4, p. 2117-2124