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We recently discovered a critical role for type I interferon (IFN) in the development of murine
Lyme arthritis. Borrelia burgdorferi-mediated induction of IFN-responsive genes by bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs) was dependent upon a functional type I IFN receptor but independent of Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), TLR4, TLR9, and the adapter molecule MyD88. We now demonstrate that induction of the IFN transcriptional profile in B. burgdorferi-stimulated BMDMs occurs independently of the adapter TRIF and of the cytoplasmic sensor NOD2. In contrast, B. burgdorferi-induced transcription of these genes was dependent upon a rapid STAT1 feedback amplification pathway. IFN profile gene transcription was IRF3 dependent but did not utilize B. burgdorferi-derived DNA or DNase-sensitive ligands. Instead, IFN-responsive gene expression could be induced by B. burgdorferi-derived RNA. Interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3)-dependent IFN profile gene transcription was also induced by sonicated bacteria, by the lipoprotein OspA, and by factors released into the BSKII medium during culture of B. burgdorferi. The IFN-stimulatory activity of B. burgdorferi culture supernatants was not destroyed by nuclease treatment. Nuclease digestion also had no effect on IFN profile induction mediated by sonicated B. burgdorferi. Thus, B. burgdorferi-derived RNA, OspA, and non-nucleic acid ligands present in both sonicated bacteria and B. burgdorferi culture medium contribute to type I IFN-responsive gene induction. These findings suggest that B. burgdorferi invasion of joint tissue and the resultant type I IFN induction associated with
Lyme arthritis development may involve multiple triggering ligands.