Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is one of the most commonly prescribed immune-suppressants in treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our previous research showed that HCQ suppressed RA development by inhibiting T follicular helper (Tfh) cells directly. Dendritic cells (DCs) serve as the link between innate and acquired immunity. Whether HCQ suppressed Tfh cell through DCs was not clear. In current study, we found that HCQ efficiently inhibited CD86, chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 4 (CXCR4) expression and interferon-α (IFN-α) secretion of healthy donor derived purified DCs stimulated by RA patient serum. To mimic RA, collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse model was used and treated with HCQ daily for fifty-four days prior to sacrifice. We found HCQ inhibited DC maturation and migration to lymph nodes (LNs), manifested as down-regulated expression of CD40, CD80, CD86, MHCII (I-A) on LN DCs. In addition, HCQ reduced the level of chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) and L-selectin on peripheral blood DCs and diminished percentage of LN DCs. Of note, HCQ only inhibited CpG ODN 1826-induced IL-12 secretion by bone marrow DCs (BMDCs) stimulated by various toll like receptor (TLR) agonists. Mechanistically, HCQ down-regulated the expression of TLR9 not only in healthy donor PBMC-derived DCs stimulated by RA patient serum, but also in LN DCs of CIA mice and CpG-activated BMDCs. Furthermore, arthritis scores in TLR9 mice were much lower than that in wild type mice with impaired maturity and migration capability of DCs. Collectively, activation of DCs contributes to the pathogenesis of RA and HCQ shows protective effects on RA by inhibition of DC activation via blocking TLR9.
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