The activation of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) is central to innate and adaptive immunity. All TLRs use the adaptor MyD88 for signalling, but the mechanisms underlying the MyD88-mediated gene induction programme are as yet not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that the transcription factor IRF-5 is generally involved downstream of the TLR-MyD88 signalling pathway for gene induction of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-12 and tumour-necrosis factor-alpha. In haematopoietic cells from mice deficient in the Irf5 gene (Irf5-/- mice), the induction of these cytokines by various TLR ligands is severely impaired, whereas interferon-alpha induction is normal. We also provide evidence that IRF-5 interacts with and is activated by MyD88 and TRAF6, and that TLR activation results in the nuclear translocation of IRF-5 to activate cytokine gene transcription. Consistently, Irf5-/- mice show resistance to lethal shock induced by either unmethylated DNA or lipopolysaccharide, which correlates with a marked decrease in the serum levels of proinflammatory cytokines. Thus, our study identifies IRF-5 as a new, principal downstream regulator of the TLR-MyD88 signalling pathway and a potential target of therapeutic intervention to control harmful immune responses.
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