The double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) analogue poly(I:C) is a promising adjuvant for cancer vaccines because it activates both dendritic cells (DCs) and natural killer (NK) cells, concurrently promoting adaptive and innate anticancer responses. Poly(I:C) acts through two dsRNA sensors, Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) and melanoma differentiation-associated protein-5 (MDA5). Here, we investigated the relative contributions of MDA5 and TLR3 to poly(I:C)-mediated NK cell activation using MDA5-/-, TLR3-/-, and MDA5 -/-TLR3-/- mice. MDA5 was crucial for NK cell activation, whereas TLR3 had a minor impact most evident in the absence of MDA5. MDA5 and TLR3 activated NK cells indirectly through accessory cells and induced the distinct stimulatory cytokines interferon-α and interleukin-12, respectively. To identify the relevant accessory cells in vivo, we generated bone marrow chimeras between either wild-type (WT) and MDA5-/- or WT and TLR3-/- mice. Interestingly, multiple accessory cells were implicated, with MDA5 acting primarily in stromal cells and TLR3 predominantly in hematopoietic cells. Furthermore, poly(I:C)-mediated NK cell activation was not notably impaired in mice lacking CD8α DCs, providing further evidence that poly(I:C) acts through diverse accessory cells rather than solely through DCs. These results demonstrate distinct yet complementary roles for MDA5 and TLR3 in poly(I:C)-mediated NK cell activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2967-2976
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number13
StatePublished - Dec 21 2009


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