Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) specialize in the secretion of type I interferons (IFN-I) and thus are considered critical mediators of antiviral responses. We recently reported that pDCs have a very early but limited and transient capacity to curtail viral infections. Additionally, pDC numbers are not sustained in human infections caused by Hepatitis B or C viruses (HBV and HCV) and HIV. Thus, the numbers and/or function of pDCs appear to be regulated during the course of viral infection. In this study, we show that splenic pDCs are reduced in vivo during several systemic viral infections and after administration of synthetic toll-like receptor ligands. We demonstrate that IFN-I, regardless of the source, contributes to this decline and mediates pDC death via the intrinsic apoptosis pathway. These findings demonstrate a feedback control mechanism by which IFN-I modulates pDC numbers, thus fine-tuning systemic IFN-I response to viruses. IFN-I-mediated control of pDCs may explain the loss of pDCs during human infections caused by HBV, HCV, or HIV and has important therapeutic implications for settings in which IFN-I is used to treat infections and autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2367-2374
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 21 2011


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