Host-microbial interactions within the mammalian intestines must be properly regulated in order to promote host health and limit disease. Because the microbiota provide constant immunological signals to intestinal tissues, a variety of regulatory mechanisms have evolved to ensure proper immune responses to maintain homeostasis. However, many of the genes that comprise these regulatory pathways, including immune-modulating microRNAs (miRNAs), have not yet been identified or studied in the context of intestinal homeostasis. Here, we investigated the role of microRNA-146a (miR-146a) in regulating intestinal immunity and barrier function and found that this miRNA is expressed in a variety of gut tissues in adult mice. By comparing intestinal gene expression in WT and miR-146a-/- mice, we demonstrate that miR-146a represses a subset of gut barrier and inflammatory genes all within a network of immune-related signaling pathways. We also found that miR-146a restricts the expansion of intestinal T cell populations, including Th17, Tregs, and Tfh cells. GC B cells, Tfh ICOS expression, and the production of luminal IgA were also reduced by miR-146a in the gut. Consistent with an enhanced intestinal barrier, we found that miR-146a-/- mice are resistant to DSS-induced colitis, a model of Ulcerative Colitis (UC), and this correlated with elevated colonic miR-146a expression in human UC patients. Taken together, our data describe a role for miR-146a in constraining intestinal barrier function, a process that alters gut homeostasis and enhances at least some forms of intestinal disease in mice.
Runtsch, M. C., Hu, R., Alexander, M., Wallace, J., Kagele, D., Petersen, C., … O’Connell, R. M. (2015). MicroRNA-146a constrains multiple parameters of intestinal immunity and increases susceptibility to DSS colitis. Oncotarget, 6(30), 28556–28572. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5597