Chronic endoplasmic reticulum stress in myotonic dystrophy type 2 promotes autoimmunity via mitochondrial DNA release

S Rösing, F Ullrich, S Meisterfeld, F Schmidt, L Mlitzko, M Croon, RG Nattrass, N Eberl, J Mahlberg, M Schlee, A Wieland, P Simon, D Hilbig, U Reuner, A Rapp, J Bremser, P Mirtschink, S Drukewitz, T Zillinger, S BeissertK Paeschke, G Hartmann, A Trifunovic, E Bartok, C Günther

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Myotonic dystrophy type 2 (DM2) is a tetranucleotide CCTG repeat expansion disease associated with an increased prevalence of autoimmunity. Here, we identified an elevated type I interferon (IFN) signature in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and primary fibroblasts of DM2 patients as a trigger of chronic immune stimulation. Although RNA-repeat accumulation was prevalent in the cytosol of DM2-patient fibroblasts, type-I IFN release did not depend on innate RNA immune sensors but rather the DNA sensor cGAS and the prevalence of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the cytoplasm. Sublethal mtDNA release was promoted by a chronic activation of the ATF6 branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in reaction to RNA-repeat accumulation and non-AUG translated tetrapeptide expansion proteins. ATF6-dependent mtDNA release and resulting cGAS/STING activation could also be recapitulated in human THP-1 monocytes exposed to chronic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Altogether, our study demonstrates a novel mechanism by which large repeat expansions cause chronic endoplasmic reticulum stress and associated mtDNA leakage. This mtDNA is, in turn, sensed by the cGAS/STING pathway and induces a type-I IFN response predisposing to autoimmunity. Elucidating this pathway reveals new potential therapeutic targets for autoimmune disorders associated with repeat expansion diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1534
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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