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Single Stranded DNA Immune Modulators with Unmethylated CpG Motifs: Structure and Molecular Recognition by Toll-Like Receptor 9

[ Vol. 20 , Issue. 11 ]


Krisztina Fehér*   Pages 1060 - 1068 ( 9 )


Single stranded microbial DNA fragments with unmethylated deoxycytidylyldeoxyguanosine dinucleotide (CpG) motifs are interpreted as danger signals by the innate immune system via recognition by the Toll-like Receptor 9 (TLR9). Their synthetic analogues, Oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) comprise a promising class of immune modulators with potential applications in the treatment of multiple diseases, such as cancer, autoimmune diseases or allergy. ODN molecules contain a core hexamer sequence, which is species specific consisting of GACGTT and AACGT for mouse and GTCGTT in humans. Assessment of structural features of different type of ODNs is highly challenging. NMR spectroscopic insights were gained for a short, single CpG motif containing ODN 1668. The structural basis of ODN recognition by TLR9 recently started to unravel as crystal structures of TLR9 orthologues in complex with ODN 1668 were solved. Systematic investigations of ODN sequences revealed that ODNs with a single CpG motif are capable of activating mouse TLR9, but two closely positioned CpG motifs are necessary for activation of human TLR9. Furthermore, longer ODNs with TCC and TCG sequences at the 5’ end were shown to activate TLR9 with higher efficiency. It was revealed that 5’-xCx motif containing short ODNs (sODN) are able to augment the immune response of short, single CpG containing ODNs, which are incapable of activating of TLR9 alone. All these observations pointed to the existence of a second binding site on TLR9, which was characterized in crystal structures that delivered further insights of the nucleic acid recognition of the innate immune system by TLR9.


Innate immunity, molecular recognition, immune modulation, single stranded DNA, CpG motif, Pattern Recognition Receptors, Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns, Toll-like receptor 9.


Department of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, Debrecen University, Debrecen

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