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Eur J Immunol. 2020 Feb 29. doi: 10.1002/eji.201948458. [Epub ahead of print]

Human T cells employ conserved AU-rich elements to fine-tune IFN-γ production.

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Department of Hematopoiesis, Sanquin Research-Amsterdam UMC Landsteiner Laboratory, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Hematopoiesis, Oncode Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Long-lasting CD8+ T cell responses are critical in combatting infections and tumors. The pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ is a key effector molecule herein. We recently showed that in murine T cells the production of IFN-γ is tightly regulated through adenylate uridylate-rich elements (AREs) that are located in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the Ifng mRNA molecule. Loss of AREs resulted in prolonged cytokine production in activated T cells and boosted anti-tumoral T cell responses. Here, we investigated whether these findings can be translated to primary human T cells. Utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 technology, we deleted the ARE region from the IFNG 3' UTR in peripheral blood-derived human T cells. Loss of AREs stabilized the IFNG mRNA in T cells and supported a higher proportion of IFN-γ protein-producing T cells. Importantly, combining MART-1 T cell receptor engineering with ARE-Del gene editing showed that this was also true for antigen-specific activation of T cells. MART-1-specific ARE-Del T cells showed higher percentages of IFN-γ producing T cells in response to MART-1 expressing tumor cells. Combined, our study reveals that ARE-mediated posttranscriptional regulation is conserved between murine and human T cells. Furthermore, generating antigen-specific ARE-Del T cells is feasible, a feature that could potentially be used for therapeutical purposes.


AU-rich elements; Human; IFN-γ, Posttranscriptional regulation; T cells


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