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Nat Immunol. 2011 Jul 24;12(9):861-9. doi: 10.1038/ni.2073.

The microRNA miR-29 controls innate and adaptive immune responses to intracellular bacterial infection by targeting interferon-γ.

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National Key Laboratory of Medical Immunology & Institute of Immunology, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China.


Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) has a critical role in immune responses to intracellular bacterial infection. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important in the regulation of innate and adaptive immunity. However, whether miRNAs can directly target IFN-γ and regulate IFN-γ production post-transcriptionally remains unknown. Here we show that infection of mice with Listeria monocytogenes or Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) downregulated miR-29 expression in IFN-γ-producing natural killer cells, CD4(+) T cells and CD8(+) T cells. Moreover, miR-29 suppressed IFN-γ production by directly targeting IFN-γ mRNA. We developed mice with transgenic expression of a 'sponge' target to compete with endogenous miR-29 targets (GS29 mice). We found higher serum concentrations of IFN-γ and lower L. monocytogenes burdens in L. monocytogenes-infected GS29 mice than in their littermates. GS29 mice had enhanced T helper type 1 (T(H)1) responses and greater resistance to infection with BCG or Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Therefore, miR-29 suppresses immune responses to intracellular pathogens by targeting IFN-γ.

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