Cutaneous injury in mice drives transient TLR7- and TLR9-mediated production of type I interferon by plasmacytoid dendritic cells, which is required for re-epithelialization of the skin.
Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are specialized type I interferon (IFN-α/β)–producing cells that express intracellular toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 and TLR9 and recognize viral nucleic acids in the context of infections. We show that pDCs also have the ability to sense host-derived nucleic acids released in common skin wounds. pDCs were found to rapidly infiltrate both murine and human skin wounds and to transiently produce type I IFNs via TLR7- and TLR9-dependent recognition of nucleic acids. This process was critical for the induction of early inflammatory responses and reepithelization of injured skin. Cathelicidin peptides, which facilitate immune recognition of released nucleic acids by promoting their access to intracellular TLR compartments, were rapidly induced in skin wounds and were sufficient but not necessary to stimulate pDC activation and type I IFN production. These data uncover a new role of pDCs in sensing tissue damage and promoting wound repair at skin surfaces.