Crystallinity of Double-Stranded RNA-Antimicrobial Peptide Complexes Modulates Toll-Like Receptor 3-Mediated Inflammation

Ernest Y. Lee, Toshiya Takahashi, Tine Curk, Jure Dobnikar, Richard L. Gallo, Gerard C.L. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) induces production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHEK) by specific binding to endosomal Toll-like receptor-3 (TLR3). Recently, it has been shown that hyperactivation of TLR3 in psoriatic keratinocytes by dsRNA can occur in the presence of human antimicrobial peptide (AMP) LL37. Here, we combine synchrotron X-ray scattering, microscopy, computer simulations, and measurements of NHEK cytokine production to elucidate a previously unanticipated form of specific molecular pattern recognition. LL37 and similar α-helical AMPs can form pro-inflammatory nanocrystalline complexes with dsRNA that are recognized by TLR3 differently than dsRNA alone. dsRNA complexes that activate IL-6 production in NHEK and those that do not are both able to enter cells and co-localize with TLR3. However, the crystallinity of these AMP-dsRNA complexes, specifically the geometric spacing between parallel dsRNA and the repeat number of ordered dsRNA, strongly influences the level of TLR3 activation. Crystalline complexes that present dsRNA at a spacing that matches with the steric size of TLR3 can recruit and engage multiple TLR3 receptors, driving receptor clustering and immune amplification, whereas crystalline complexes that exhibit poor steric matching do not. Reverse-transcription quantitative PCR of IL-6 during siRNA knockdown of TLR3 confirms that cytokine production is due to TLR3: High levels of IL-6 transcription are observed for sterically matched complexes without TLR3 knockdown, whereas such activity is abrogated with TLR3 knockdown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12145-12155
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 26
Externally publishedYes


  • antimicrobial peptides
  • dsRNA
  • innate immunity
  • psoriasis
  • toll-like receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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