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EMBO Mol Med. 2020 Feb 7:e11011. doi: 10.15252/emmm.201911011. [Epub ahead of print]

MicroRNA exporter HuR clears the internalized pathogens by promoting pro-inflammatory response in infected macrophages.

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RNA Biology Research Laboratory, Molecular Genetics Division, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata, India.
Structural Biology and Bio-informatics Division, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata, India.
National Institute of Pharmaceutical Educations and Research, Kolkata, India.
Department of Medicine, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India.


HuR is a miRNA derepressor protein that can act as miRNA sponge for specific miRNAs to negate their action on target mRNAs. Here we have identified how HuR, by inducing extracellular vesicles-mediated export of miRNAs, ensures robust derepression of miRNA-repressed cytokines essential for strong pro-inflammatory response in activated mammalian macrophages. Leishmania donovani, the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis, on the contrary alters immune response of the host macrophage by a variety of complex mechanisms to promote anti-inflammatory response essential for the survival of the parasite. We have found that during Leishmania infection, the pathogen targets HuR to promote onset of anti-inflammatory response in mammalian macrophages. In infected macrophages, Leishmania also upregulate protein phosphatase 2A that acts on Ago2 protein to keep it in dephosphorylated and miRNA-associated form. This causes robust repression of the miRNA-targeted pro-inflammatory cytokines to establish an anti-inflammatory response in infected macrophages. HuR has an inhibitory effect on protein phosphatase 2A expression, and mathematical modelling of macrophage activation process supports antagonistic miRNA-modulatory roles of HuR and protein phosphatase 2A which mutually balances immune response in macrophage by targeting miRNA function. Supporting this model, ectopic expression of the protein HuR and simultaneous inhibition of protein phosphatase 2A induce strong pro-inflammatory response in the host macrophage to prevent the virulent antimonial drug-sensitive or drug-resistant form of L. donovani infection. Thus, HuR can act as a balancing factor of immune responses to curtail the macrophage infection process by the protozoan parasite.


Ago2 dephosphorylation; drug-resistant Leishmania; host-parasite interaction; miRNA export; protein phosphatase 2A

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