Overexpression of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 impairs T(H)1 responses.
The DNA binding protein methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) critically influences neuronal and brain function by modulating gene expression, and children with overexpression of the MECP2 gene exhibit postnatal neurological syndromes. We demonstrate that some children with MECP2 duplication also display variable immunological abnormalities that include reductions in memory T and B cells and natural killer cells and immunoglobulin assay responses. Moreover, whereas mice with MeCP2 overexpression were unable to control infection with the intra-macrophage parasite Leishmania major and secrete interferon-γ (IFN-γ) from involved lymph nodes, they were able to control airway fungal infection by Aspergillus niger and mount protective T helper cell type 2 (T(H)2)-dependent allergic responses. Relative to normal T cells, T(H) cells from children and mice with MECP2 duplication displayed similar impairments in IFN-γ secretion and T(H)1 responses that were due to both MeCP2-dependent suppression of IFN-γ transcription and sequestration of the IFN-γ locus as assessed by chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Thus, overexpressed MeCP2 aberrantly suppresses IFN-γ secretion from T(H) cells, potentially leading to a partially immunodeficient state. Our findings establish a rational basis for identifying, treating, and preventing infectious complications potentially affecting children with MECP2 duplication.