IRGM1 links mitochondrial quality control to autoimmunity

Prashant Rai, Kyathanahalli S. Janardhan, Julie Meacham, Jennifer H. Madenspacher, Wan Chi Lin, Peer W.F. Karmaus, Jennifer Martinez, Quan Zhen Li, Mei Yan, Jialiu Zeng, Mark W. Grinstaff, Orian S. Shirihai, Gregory A. Taylor, Michael B. Fessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Mitochondrial abnormalities have been noted in lupus, but the causes and consequences remain obscure. Autophagy-related genes ATG5, ATG7 and IRGM have been previously implicated in autoimmune disease. We reasoned that failure to clear defective mitochondria via mitophagy might be a foundational driver in autoimmunity by licensing mitochondrial DNA–dependent induction of type I interferon. Here, we show that mice lacking the GTPase IRGM1 (IRGM homolog) exhibited a type I interferonopathy with autoimmune features. Irgm1 deletion impaired the execution of mitophagy with cell-specific consequences. In fibroblasts, mitochondrial DNA soiling of the cytosol induced cyclic GMP-AMP synthase (cGAS)–stimulator of interferon genes (STING)-dependent type I interferon, whereas in macrophages, lysosomal Toll-like receptor 7 was activated. In vivo, Irgm1–/– tissues exhibited mosaic dependency upon nucleic acid receptors. Whereas salivary and lacrimal gland autoimmune pathology was abolished and lung pathology was attenuated by cGAS and STING deletion, pancreatic pathology remained unchanged. These findings reveal fundamental connections between mitochondrial quality control and tissue-selective autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalNature immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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