Human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K(HML-2) RNA causes neurodegeneration through Toll-like receptors
Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Department of Medicine
Immunology and Infectious Disease | Nervous System Diseases | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Viruses
Although human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) represent a substantial proportion of the human genome and some HERVs, such as HERV-K(HML-2), are reported to be involved in neurological disorders, little is known about their biological function. We report that RNA from an HERV-K(HML-2) envelope gene region binds to and activates human Toll-like receptor (TLR) 8, as well as murine Tlr7, expressed in neurons and microglia, thereby causing neurodegeneration. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA introduced into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of either C57BL/6 wild-type mice or APPPS1 mice, a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease (AD), resulted in neurodegeneration and microglia accumulation. Tlr7-deficient mice were protected against neurodegenerative effects but were resensitized toward HERV-K(HML-2) RNA when neurons ectopically expressed murine Tlr7 or human TLR8. Transcriptome data sets of human AD brain samples revealed a distinct correlation of upregulated HERV-K(HML-2) and TLR8 RNA expression. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA was detectable more frequently in CSF from individuals with AD compared with controls. Our data establish HERV-K(HML-2) RNA as an endogenous ligand for species-specific TLRs 7/8 and imply a functional contribution of human endogenous retroviral transcripts to neurodegenerative processes, such as AD.
Alzheimer’s disease, Immunology, Innate immunity, Neurodegeneration, Neuroscience
DOI of Published Version
Dembny P, Newman AG, Singh M, Hinz M, Szczepek M, Krüger C, Adalbert R, Dzaye O, Trimbuch T, Wallach T, Kleinau G, Derkow K, Richard BC, Schipke C, Scheidereit C, Stachelscheid H, Golenbock D, Peters O, Coleman M, Heppner FL, Scheerer P, Tarabykin V, Ruprecht K, Izsvák Z, Mayer J, Lehnardt S. Human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K(HML-2) RNA causes neurodegeneration through Toll-like receptors. JCI Insight. 2020 Apr 9;5(7):131093. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.131093. PMID: 32271161. Link to article on publisher's site
Dembny P, Golenbock DT, Lehnardt S. (2020). Human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K(HML-2) RNA causes neurodegeneration through Toll-like receptors. Open Access Articles. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.131093. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/oapubs/4220