MicroRNA-let-7a expression is increased in the mesangial cells of NZB/W mice and increases IL-6 production in vitro

Cristen B Chafin, Nicole L Regna, Rujuan Dai, David L Caudell, Christopher M Reilly
Autoimmunity 2013, 46 (6): 351-62
Recent evidence supports a role for epigenetic alterations in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). MicroRNAs (miRNAs or miRs) are endogenous epigenetic regulators whose expression is altered in many diseases, including SLE. IL-6 is an inflammatory cytokine produced by mesangial cells during lupus nephritis (LN). IL-6 contains a potential binding site for miRNA-let-7a (let-7a) in its 3' untranslated region (UTR). We found let-7a expression was significantly increased in the mesangial cells of pre-diseased and actively diseased New Zealand Black/White (NZB/W) mice compared to age-matched New Zealand White (NZW) mice. Overexpression of let-7a in vitro increased IL-6 production in stimulated mesangial cells compared to non-transfected controls. Inhibition of let-7a did not significantly affect immune-stimulated IL-6 production. When stimulated mesangial cells overexpressing let-7a were treated with the transcription inhibitor Actinomycin D (ActD), IL-6 was degraded faster, consistent with the direct targeting of the 3' UTR of IL-6 by let-7a. Overexpression of let-7a increased the expression of tristetraprolin (TTP), an RNA-binding protein (RBP) that has 5 potential binding regions in the 3' UTR of IL-6. ActD inhibited the transcription of proteins including TTP that may contribute to the let-7a-mediated increase in immune-stimulated IL-6 production. These data show that NZB/W mice have higher let-7a expression than NZW mice and that increased let-7a expression in vitro increases IL-6 production in stimulated mesangial cells. Further studies examining the role of let-7a expression in inflammation are warranted.

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