GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program



First Thesis Advisor

Eicke Latz, M.D., Ph.D.


Receptors, Cell Surface, Receptors, Immunologic, Nucleic Acids, Immunity, Innate


As humans, we inhabit an environment shared with many microorganisms, some of which are harmless or beneficial, and others which represent a threat to our health. A complex network of organs, cells and their protein products form our bodies’ immune system, tasked with detecting these potentially harmful agents and eliminating them. This same system also serves to detect changes in the healthy balance of normal functions in the body, and for repairing tissue damage caused by injury. Immune recognition of nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, is one way that the body detects invading pathogens and initiates tissue repair. A number of specialized receptor proteins have evolved to distinguish nucleic acids that represent “threats” from those involved in normal physiology. These proteins include members of the Toll-like receptor family and diverse types of cytosolic proteins, all of which reside within the confines of the cell. Few proteins on the cell surface have been clearly characterized to interact with nucleic acids in the extracellular environment. In this dissertation, I present collaborative work that identifies the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) as a cell surface receptor for nucleic acids and positions it as an important modulator of immune responses. Molecular dimers of RAGE interact with the sugar-phosphate backbones of nucleic acid ligands, allowing this receptor to recognize a variety of DNA and RNA molecules regardless of their nucleotide sequence. Expression of RAGE on cells promotes uptake of DNA and enhances subsequent responses that are dependent on the nucleic acid sensor Toll-like receptor 9. When mice deficient in RAGE are exposed to DNA in the lung, the predominant site of RAGE expression, they do not mount a typical early inflammatory response, suggesting that RAGE is important in generating immune responses to DNA in mammalian organisms. Further evidence suggests that RAGE interacts preferentially with multimolecular complexes that contain nucleic acids, and that these complexes may induce clustering of receptor dimers into larger multimeric structures. Taken together, the data reported here identify RAGE as an important cell surface receptor protein for nucleic acids, which is capable of modulating the intensity of immune responses to DNA and RNA. Understanding of and intervention in this recognition pathway hold therapeutic promise for diseases characterized by excessive responses to self nucleic acids, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and for the pathology caused by chronic inflammatory responses to self and foreign nucleic acids.



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