Receptor Mincle promotes skin allergies and is capable of recognizing cholesterol sulfate
Sterile (noninfected) inflammation underlies the pathogenesis of many widespread diseases, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. The evolutionarily conserved innate immune system is considered to play a key role in tissue injury recognition and the subsequent development of sterile inflammation; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms are not yet completely understood. Here, we show that cholesterol sulfate, a molecule present in relatively high concentrations in the epithelial layer of barrier tissues, is selectively recognized by Mincle (Clec4e), a C-type lectin receptor of the innate immune system that is strongly up-regulated in response to skin damage. Mincle activation by cholesterol sulfate causes the secretion of a range of proinflammatory mediators, and s.c. injection of cholesterol sulfate results in a Mincle-mediated induction of a severe local inflammatory response. In addition, our study reveals a role of Mincle as a driving component in the pathogenesis of allergic skin inflammation. In a well-established model of allergic contact dermatitis, the absence of Mincle leads to a significant suppression of the magnitude of the skin inflammatory response as assessed by changes in ear thickness, myeloid cell infiltration, and cytokine and chemokine secretion. Taken together, our results provide a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying sterile inflammation.