Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 1 (NOD1) is an intracellular epithelial cell protein known to play a role in host defense at mucosal surfaces. Here we show that a ligand specific for NOD1, a peptide derived from peptidoglycan, initiates an unexpected signaling pathway in human epithelial cell lines that results in the production of type I IFN. Detailed analysis revealed the components of the signaling pathway. NOD1 binding to its ligand triggered activation of the serine-threonine kinase RICK, which was then able to bind TNF receptor-associated factor 3 (TRAF3). This in turn led to activation of TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) and IκB kinase ε (IKKε) and the subsequent activation of IFN regulatory factor 7 (IRF7). IRF7 induced IFN-β production, which led to activation of a heterotrimeric transcription factor complex known as IFN-stimulated gene factor 3 (ISGF3) and the subsequent production of CXCL10 and additional type I IFN. In vivo studies showed that mice lacking the receptor for IFN-β or subjected to gene silencing of the ISGF3 component Stat1 exhibited decreased CXCL10 responses and increased susceptibility to Helicobacter pylori infection, phenotypes observed in NOD1-deficient mice. These studies thus establish that NOD1 can activate the ISGF3 signaling pathway that is usually associated with protection against viral infection to provide mice with robust type I IFN-mediated protection from H. pylori and possibly other mucosal infections.
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