Investigation of the molecular mechanisms controlling the function of human regulatory T cells

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October 25, 2013

Tregs are the main mediators of dominant tolerance. Their mechanisms of action and applications are subjects of considerable debate currently. However, a human microRNA (miR) Treg signature has not been described yet. We investigated human natural Tregs and identified a signature composed of five miRs (21, 31, 125a, 181c and 374). Among those, two were considerably under-expressed (miR-31 and miR-125a). We identified a functional target sequence for miR-31 in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) of FOXP3 mRNA. Using lentiviral transduction of fresh cord blood T cells, we demonstrated that miR-31 and miR- 21 had an effect on FOXP3 expression levels. We showed that miR-31 negatively regulates FOXP3 expression by binding directly to its potential target site in the 3' UTR of FOXP3 mRNA. We next demonstrated that miR-21 acted as a positive, though indirect, regulator of FOXP3 expression. Recent reports have shown that histone deacetylase inhibitors increased FOXP3 expression in T cells. We therefore decided to investigate in non-Tregs CD4-positive cells, the mechanisms by which an aspecific opening of the chromatin could lead to an increased FOXP3 expression. We focused on binding of potentially activating transcription factors to the promoter region of FOXP3 and on modifications in the five miRs constituting the Tregs signature. Valproate treatment induced binding of Ets-1 and Ets-2 to the FOXP3 promoter and acted positively on its expression, by increasing the acetylation of histone H4 lysines. Valproate treatment also induced the acquisition of the miRs Tregs signature thus concluding that that valproate treatment of human non-Tregs confers on them a molecular profile similar to that of their regulatory counterparts.

Drug DiscoveryGenomicsInformatics

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