Alterations in the apoptosis of immune cells have been associated with autoimmunity. Here, we have identified a homozygous missense mutation in the gene encoding the base excision repair enzyme Nei endonuclease VIII-like 3 (NEIL3) that abolished enzymatic activity in 3 siblings from a consanguineous family. The NEIL3 mutation was associated with fatal recurrent infections, severe autoimmunity, hypogammaglobulinemia, and impaired B cell function in these individuals. The same homozygous NEIL3 mutation was also identified in an asymptomatic individual who exhibited elevated levels of serum autoantibodies and defective peripheral B cell tolerance, but normal B cell function. Further analysis of the patients revealed an absence of LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA) protein expression, a known cause of immunodeficiency. We next examined the contribution of NEIL3 to the maintenance of self-tolerance in Neil3-/- mice. Although Neil3-/- mice displayed normal B cell function, they exhibited elevated serum levels of autoantibodies and developed nephritis following treatment with poly(I:C) to mimic microbial stimulation. In Neil3-/- mice, splenic T and B cells as well as germinal center B cells from Peyer's patches showed marked increases in apoptosis and cell death, indicating the potential release of self-antigens that favor autoimmunity. These findings demonstrate that deficiency in NEIL3 is associated with increased lymphocyte apoptosis, autoantibodies, and predisposition to autoimmunity.
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