Molecular mitigation: Deleting microRNA-155 reduces autoimmune response

December 24, 2013 by Stuart Mason Dambrot feature
Autoantigen-induced GC reactions are reduced in miR-155−/−-Faslpr mice. (A) The frequency of GC B cells within the CD19 gate using PNA-phycoerythrin (PE) and GL-7-FITC. Plots are representative of 5–10 experiments. B6 (n = 5), miR-155−/− (n = 5), miR-155−/−-Faslpr (n = 10), Faslpr (n = 10). (B) The frequency of spleen GC B cells within the CD19 gate was determined from A. Each symbol represents one mouse. (C) The frequency of pLN GC B cells within the CD19 gate was determined from A. (D) The absolute number of spleen GC B cells was calculated from B. P values were determined using the GraphPad Software Student t test. (E) Immunohistochemistry of spleens and pLNs was done using paraffin sections. Arrows indicates germinal centers stained with PNA (brown) and counterstained with hematoxylin. Blue stain indicates follicles. Credit: Copyright © PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1317632110

(Medical Xpress)—While our immune system protects us from myriad bacterial and viral attacks by producing antigen-specific antibodies, this process can sometimes go awry. In such cases, the antibodies target cells and tissues of our own bodies, leading to autoimmunity and a resulting autoimmune disease, examples of which include Type I diabetes, psoriasis and lupus. (Lupus produces antibodies that attack primarily the kidneys.) Recently, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School demonstrated that ablating the regulatory molecule microRNA-155 (also referred to as miR-155), which normally promotes antibody production, prevents harmful antibody production and thereby alleviates lupus-like disease in laboratory mice. The researchers say that their results suggest the possibility of targeting microRNA-155 to treat autoimmune diseases.

Dr. To-Ha Thai discussed the paper that she and her co-authors recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "MiR-155 regulates systemic autoimmunity in part by controlling the activation threshold of lymphocytes in response to autoantigens," Thai tells Medical Xpress. "In this case, we showed that miR-155 modulates the of SHIP-1, which is a negative regulator of B-cell receptor activation." (A B-cell receptor, or BCR, is a transmembrane protein located on the outer surface of B , which belong to a group of known as lymphocytes.) Specifically, the paper shows that the enzyme SHIP-1 is decreased in B cells from lupus-prone mice, resulting in the hyperactivation of these B cells and, in turn, leading to autoantibody overproduction. Deleting miR-155 in lupus-prone mice reverses this increase almost completely, thus dampening autoantibody production and resulting in the amelioration of lupus-like symptoms – for example, fewer double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) autoantibodies and less kidney damage. (Double-stranded DNA, the double helix form in which DNA occurs in chromosomes, is a molecule of DNA consisting of two parallel strands joined by hydrogen bonds between the complementary aromatic heterocyclic organic compounds purines and pyrimidines.)

"MiR-155 regulates the expression levels of SHIP-1, which is a negative regulator of B- receptor activation," Thai continues. "SHIP-1 dampens BCR activation and, therefore, B-cell activation and antibody production. We think that miR-155 is transiently induced upon B-cell activation to control SHIP-1 expression to allow BCR activation to proceed for a finite time." In an autoimmune environment, Thai explains, autoantigens constantly activate B cells to express miR-155 – and this persistent expression of miR-155 results in the sustained repression of SHIP-1, which will eventually lead to the continuous and prolonged activation of autoreactive B cells and thus autoantibody production.

"We think that miR-155 is a good target to treat for two reasons," Thai notes. "First, it's only induced when cells are activated, and so will only affect the activated cells that are abundant in autoimmune diseases. Second, we and others find that the deletion of miR-155 only affects the production of autoantibodies – not the more protective natural antibodies – so targeting miR-155 may not pose a danger to an individual, since protective remains intact."

Moving forward, Thai says, she will attempt to address the confounding findings that they and other investigators have observed – namely, that miR-155 seems to regulate Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody responses differentially depending on the type of antigens used. (IgG is the most abundant type of antibody, and is found in all body fluids and protects against bacterial and viral infections. IgM, which is found mainly in the blood and lymph fluid, is the first to be made by the body to fight a new infection.) "More specifically," she adds, "in some studies miR-155 affects both IgG and IgM responses – but in others, it only affects IgG responses. We will continue to further our understanding of this conundrum."

In addition, the researchers will continue to dissect how the is controlled. "We're looking into the role of other epigenetic modifications in the regulation of the adaptive immune response," Thai tells Medical Xpress. "We would also like to work with industries to develop means to target miR-155 for the treatment of autoimmune diseases."

The other areas of research that might benefit from their study, Thai concludes, are vaccines, immunity, and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and infection.

Explore further: Researchers say one specific microrna promotes tumor growth and cancer spread

More information: Deletion of microRNA-155 reduces autoantibody responses and alleviates lupus-like disease in the Faslpr mouse, PNAS December 10, 2013 vol. 110no. 50 20194-20199, doi:10.1073/pnas.1317632110

Related Stories

Researchers say one specific microrna promotes tumor growth and cancer spread

April 3, 2013
Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center have determined that the overexpression of microRNA-155 (miR-155), a short, single strand of ribonucleic acid encoded by the miR-155 host gene, promotes the growth of blood vessels in ...

Study identifies possible new acute leukemia marker, treatment target

May 13, 2013
A study has identified microRNA-155 as a new independent prognostic marker and treatment target in patients with acute myeloid leukemia that has normal-looking chromosomes under the microscope (that is, cytogenetically normal ...

Mini-molecule governs severity of acute graft vs. host disease, study finds

March 12, 2012
Researchers have identified a molecule that helps control the severity of graft-versus-host disease, a life-threatening complication for many leukemia patients who receive a bone-marrow transplant.

Atherosclerosis: Specific microRNAs promote inflammation

March 22, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Atherosclerosis, an inflammatory reaction, is at the root of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease. Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich have now identified a microRNA that ...

Newly identified immune receptor may activate B cells in autoimmunity

December 18, 2013
A newly identified immune protein influences each person's response to vaccines and risk for autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis, according to a study published today by researchers from the School of Medicine ...

Recommended for you

Immune system can be modulated by targeted manipulation of cell metabolism

August 21, 2017
In its attempt to fight a serious bacterial infection, caused by listeria, for example, the immune system can become so over-activated that the resulting inflammatory response and its consequences can quickly lead to death. ...

Australian researchers in peanut allergy breakthrough

August 17, 2017
Australian researchers have reported a major breakthrough in the relief of deadly peanut allergy with the discovery of a long-lasting treatment they say offers hope that a cure will soon be possible.

Genetic variants found to play key role in human immune system

August 16, 2017
It is widely recognized that people respond differently to infections. This can partially be explained by genetics, shows a new study published today in Nature Communications by an international collaboration of researchers ...

Study identifies a new way to prevent a deadly fungal infection spreading to the brain

August 16, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered a way to stop a deadly fungus from 'hijacking' the body's immune system and spreading to the brain.

Biophysics explains how immune cells kill bacteria

August 16, 2017
(Tokyo, August 16) A new data analysis technique, moving subtrajectory analysis, designed by researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, defines the dynamics and kinetics of key molecules in the immune response to an infection. ...

How a nutrient, glutamine, can control gene programs in cells

August 15, 2017
The 200 different types of cells in the body all start with the same DNA genome. To differentiate into families of bone cells, muscle cells, blood cells, neurons and the rest, differing gene programs have to be turned on ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.