Tolerance versus immune response — microRNAs as important elements in the regulation of the HLA-G gene expression

T D Veit, J A B Chies
Transplant Immunology 2009, 20 (4): 229-31
HLA-G is a class Ib HLA which has gained much attention due to its multiple functions on the immune system. HLA-G exerts several immunomodulatory effects, being beneficially implicated in embryo implantation and fetal survival but, conversely, being potentially detrimental in tumors and viral infections. Such a two-edged sword behavior suggest that HLA-G expression is under tight regulation. However, to date, little is known about the regulation of this gene and previous works have been unable to well correlate HLA-G regulation at the mRNA level with the polymorphic variants at the genomic level. Here we present the hypothesis that an element, which was until now neglected, might play a role in HLA-G expression regulation: MicroRNAs might participate in the regulation of the HLA-G gene expression through a putative microRNA binding site at its 3' UTR region. Inside the 20 nt region of this microRNA binding site lies a C/G polymorphism, which was shown to be responsible for differential microRNA binding affinity and translation suppression. The role of microRNA binding on the regulation of HLA-G gene expression (and therefore on tolerance versus immune response) can be easily tested through relatively simple steps: Confirming the expression of those three complementary microRNAs in human cells which express HLA-G, followed by examination of the correlation between HLA-G mRNA and protein production controlling for HLA-G genotypes and microRNA levels; finally, selective inhibition of microRNA activity with anti-sense oligos restoring HLA-G production would access microRNA influence on HLA-G expression which, if confirmed, might help in the development of strategies to the management of several conditions in which HLA-G is involved, including pregnancy complications, transplantation, and cancer.

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