Autoreactive B cells are present in the lymphoid tissues of healthy individuals, but typically remain quiescent. When this homeostasis is perturbed, the formation of self-reactive antibodies can have serious pathological consequences. B cells expressing an antigen receptor specific for self-immunoglobulin-γ (IgG) make a class of autoantibodies known as rheumatoid factor (RF). Here we show that effective activation of RF+ B cells is mediated by IgG2a-chromatin immune complexes and requires the synergistic engagement of the antigen receptor and a member of the MyD88-dependent Toll-like receptor (TLR) family. Inhibitor studies implicate TLR9. These data establish a critical link between the innate and adaptive immune systems in the development of systemic autoimmune disease and explain the preponderance of autoantibodies reactive with nucleic acid-protein particles. The unique features of this dual-engagement pathway should facilitate the development of therapies that specifically target autoreactive B cells.
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