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Human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) play a vital role in modulating immune responses. They can produce massive amounts of type I IFNs in response to nucleic acids via TLRs, but they are also known to possess weak Ag-presenting properties inducing CD4+ T cell activation. Previous studies showed a cross-regulation between TNF-α and IFN-α, but many questions remain about the effect of TNF-α in regulating human pDCs. In this study, we showed that TNF-α significantly inhibited the secretion of IFN-α and TNF-α of TLR-stimulated pDCs. Instead, exogenous TNF-α promoted pDC maturation by upregulating costimulatory molecules and chemokine receptors such as CD80, CD86, HLA-DR, and CCR7. Additionally, RNA sequencing analysis showed that TNF-α inhibited IFN-α and TNF-α production by downregulating IRF7 and NF-κB pathways, while it promoted Ag processing and presentation pathways as well as T cell activation and differentiation. Indeed, TNF-α-treated pDCs induced in vitro higher CD4+ T cell proliferation and activation, enhancing the production of Th1 and Th17 cytokines. In conclusion, TNF-α favors pDC maturation by switching their main role as IFN-α-producing cells to a more conventional dendritic cell phenotype. The functional status of pDCs might therefore be strongly influenced by their overall inflammatory environment, and TNF-α might regulate IFN-α-mediated aspects of a range of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





785 - 796


CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Proliferation, Dendritic Cells, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Interferon-alpha, Lymphocyte Activation, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha