Both type I interferon (IFN-I) and CD40 play a significant role in various infectious diseases, including malaria and autoimmune disorders. CD40 is mostly known to function in adaptive immunity, but previous observations of elevated CD40 levels early after malaria infection of mice led us to investigate its roles in innate IFN-I responses and disease control. Using a Plasmodium yoelii nigeriensis N67 and C57BL/6 mouse model, we showed that infected CD40-/- mice had reduced STING and serum IFN-β levels day-2 post infection, higher day-4 parasitemia, and earlier deaths. CD40 could greatly enhance STING-stimulated luciferase signals driven by the IFN-β promoter in vitro, which was mediated by increased STING protein levels. The ability of CD40 to influence STING expression was confirmed in CD40-/- mice after malaria infection. Substitutions at CD40 TRAF binding domains significantly decreased the IFN-β signals and STING protein level, which was likely mediated by changes in STING ubiquitination and degradation. Increased levels of CD40, STING, and ISRE driven luciferase signal in RAW Lucia were observed after phagocytosis of N67-infected red blood cells (iRBCs), stimulation with parasite DNA/RNA, or with selected TLR ligands [LPS, poly(I:C), and Pam3CSK4]. The results suggest stimulation of CD40 expression by parasite materials through TLR signaling pathways, which was further confirmed in bone marrow derived dendritic cells/macrophages (BMDCs/BMDMs) and splenic DCs from CD40-/-, TLR3-/- TLR4-/-, TRIF-/-, and MyD88-/- mice after iRBC stimulation or parasite infection. Our data connect several signaling pathways consisting of phagocytosis of iRBCs, recognition of parasite DNA/RNA (possibly GPI) by TLRs, elevated levels of CD40 and STING proteins, increased IFN-I production, and longer host survival time. This study reveals previously unrecognized CD40 function in innate IFN-I responses and protective pathways in infections with malaria strains that induce a strong IFN-I response, which may provide important information for better understanding and management of malaria.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology