Previous studies in humans and in animal models support a key role of histidyl–transfer RNA synthetase (HisRS; also known as Jo-1) in the pathogenesis of idiopathic inflammatory myopathy. While most investigations have focused on the ability of HisRS to trigger adaptive immune responses, in vitro studies clearly indicate that HisRS possesses intrinsic chemokine-like properties capable of activating the innate immune system. The purpose of this study was therefore to examine the ability of HisRS to direct innate immune responses in a murine model of myositis.
Following intramuscular immunization with soluble HisRS in the absence of exogenous adjuvant, selected strains of mice were evaluated at different time points for histopathologic evidence of myositis. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay–based assessment of autoantibody formation and carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester proliferation studies provided complementary measures of B cell and T cell responses triggered by HisRS immunization.
Compared to appropriate control proteins, a murine HisRS fusion protein induced robust, statistically significant muscle inflammation in multiple congenic strains of C57BL/6 and NOD mice. Time course experiments revealed that this inflammatory response occurred as early as 7 days postimmunization and persisted for up to 7 weeks. Parallel immunization strategies in DO11.10/RAG-2–/– and C3H/HeJ (TLR-4–/–) mice indicated that the ability of murine HisRS to drive muscle inflammation was not dependent on B cell receptor or T cell receptor recognition and did not require Toll-like receptor 4 signaling.
Collectively, the findings of these experiments support a model in which HisRS can trigger both innate and adaptive immune responses that culminate in severe muscle inflammation that is the hallmark of idiopathic inflammatory myopathy.