Dynamic post-transcriptional control of RNA expression by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) is critical during immune response. ZFP36 RBPs are prominent inflammatory regulators linked to autoimmunity and cancer, but functions in adaptive immunity are less clear. We used HITS-CLIP to define ZFP36 targets in mouse T cells, revealing unanticipated actions in regulating T-cell activation, proliferation, and effector functions. Transcriptome and ribosome profiling showed that ZFP36 represses mRNA target abundance and translation, notably through novel AU-rich sites in coding sequence. Functional studies revealed that ZFP36 regulates early T-cell activation kinetics cell autonomously, by attenuating activation marker expression, limiting T cell expansion, and promoting apoptosis. Strikingly, loss of ZFP36 in vivo accelerated T cell responses to acute viral infection and enhanced anti-viral immunity. These findings uncover a critical role for ZFP36 RBPs in restraining T cell expansion and effector functions, and suggest ZFP36 inhibition as a strategy to enhance immune-based therapies.
How tissue-resident macrophages (TRM) impact adaptive immune responses remains poorly understood. We report novel mechanisms by which TRMs regulate T cell activities at tissue sites. These mechanisms are mediated by the complement receptor of immunoglobulin family (CRIg). Using animal models for autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D), we found that CRIg+ TRMs formed a protective barrier surrounding pancreatic islets. Genetic ablation of CRIg exacerbated islet inflammation and local T cell activation. CRIg exhibited a dual function of attenuating early T cell activation and promoting the differentiation of Foxp3+ regulatory (Treg) cells. More importantly, CRIg stabilized the expression of Foxp3 in Treg cells, by enhancing their responsiveness to interleukin-2. The expression of CRIg in TRMs was postnatally regulated by gut microbial signals and metabolites. Thus, environmental cues instruct TRMs to express CRIg, which functions as an immune checkpoint molecule to regulate adaptive immunity and promote immune tolerance.
It is now established that Bcl11b specifies T cell fate. Here, we show that in developing T cells, the Bcl11b enhancer repositioned from the lamina to the nuclear interior. Our search for factors that relocalized the Bcl11b enhancer identified a non-coding RNA named ThymoD (thymocyte differentiation factor). ThymoD-deficient mice displayed a block at the onset of T cell development and developed lymphoid malignancies. We found that ThymoD transcription promoted demethylation at CTCF bound sites and activated cohesin-dependent looping to reposition the Bcl11b enhancer from the lamina to the nuclear interior and to juxtapose the Bcl11b enhancer and promoter into a single-loop domain. These large-scale changes in nuclear architecture were associated with the deposition of activating epigenetic marks across the loop domain, plausibly facilitating phase separation. These data indicate how, during developmental progression and tumor suppression, non-coding transcription orchestrates chromatin folding and compartmentalization to direct with high precision enhancer-promoter communication.