TRIM21 has emerged as an atypical Fc receptor that is broadly conserved and widely expressed in the cytoplasm of mammalian cells. Viruses that traffic surface-bound antibodies into the cell during infection recruit TRIM21 via a high affinity interaction between Fc and TRIM21 PRYSPRY domain. Following binding of intracellular antibody, TRIM21 acts as both antiviral effector and sensor for innate immune signalling. These activities serve to reduce viral replication by orders of magnitude in vitro and contribute to host survival during in vivo infection. Neutralization occurs rapidly after detection and requires the activity of the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The microbial targets of this arm of intracellular immunity are still being identified: TRIM21 activity has been reported following infection by several non-enveloped viruses and intracellular bacteria. These findings extend the sphere of influence of antibodies to the intracellular domain and have broad implications for immunity. TRIM21 has been implicated in the chronic auto-immune condition systemic lupus erythematosus and is itself an auto-antigen in Sjögren’s syndrome. This review summarises our current understanding of TRIM21’s role as a cytosolic Fc receptor and briefly discusses pathological circumstances where intracellular antibodies have been described, or are hypothesized to occur, and may benefit from further investigations of the role of TRIM21.
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