Plasmacytoid dendritic cells are specialized in the production of type I interferon (type I IFN), which promotes antiviral and antitumor responses, as well as autoimmune disorders. Activation of type I IFN secretion depends on the pattern recognition receptors TLR7 and TLR9, which sense microbial RNA and DNA, respectively. Type I IFN production is modulated by several receptors, including the type II C-type lectin domain family 4, member C (CLEC4C). The natural ligand of CLEC4C is unknown. To identify it, here we probed a glycan array with a soluble form of the CLEC4C ectodomain. We found that CLEC4C recognizes complex type sugars with terminal galactose. Importantly, soluble CLEC4C bound peripheral blood leukocytes and tumor cells that express glycans with galactose residues at the non-reducing ends. The positive and negative modulation of galactose residues on cell membranes was paralleled by the regulation of type I IFN secretion by plasmacytoid dendritic cells in co-culture experiments in vitro. These results suggest that the modulation in the expression of non-sialylated oligosaccharides by invading pathogens or transformed cells may affect type I IFN response and immune surveillance.
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